Washington Folk Festival Celebrates Diversity of Region

So many choices at the 41st Washington Folk Festival held at Glen Echo Park on MacArthur Boulevard. This popular free event offered 85 hours of musical performances with new groups appearing in seven locations every hour, storytelling under the tent and artisan crafts. Dancing in costumes represented a variety of cultures including Irish, Bulgarian, Cajun, tango, and bal folk.

Saturday, June 3 festival attendees drive around and around the parking lot hoping for one of the scarce parking spots or a space along the curb between the trees on the lawn. Over the bridge and along the long sidewalk sheltered by the trees, the first performance you see is Art Spencer at the Yurt Village Stage. He is in the middle of a story. He will be followed by the Sea Chanteys at 2 p.m. A pottery table lines the walk across the way with samples for sale by the artists who have their studios at Glen Echo.

The pounding music of the Denzel Carousel greets visitors as the ponies and giraffes whirl by, and the children line up for a chance to ride their favorite animal. Everywhere there is something happening. 

Paraguayan Harp is waiting to perform on the Chautauqua Stage while the announcer fills the time with stories as they try to repair the sound equipment.

Art Spencer sits in the Yurt Village Stage entertaining the audience with captivating stories.


Early afternoon Djangolaya is playing their hot jazz music with a European flair at the Crystal Pool Stage. A couple dances on the edges of the seating area while a mother and her daughter, in matching pink dresses, practice a jitterbug on the lawn. A few folks wander down the path nearby to the glass blowing studio where they watch a lump of colored glass as it gets softened in the hot oven and then twisted into shape with a pair of long tongs.

Nearby a brother and sister chase bubbles around the playground area while a young woman tries unsuccessfully to install her dog in a baby swing. Smoke curling through the air signals a short line forming for $10 hamburgers and a bag of chips, the only food at the Festival except for a busy Ben and Jerry’s stand. 

Urban Artistry perform poppin and lockin street dances in the Spanish ballroom with observers scattered across the large dance floor clapping to the beat.

A man sits at a picnic bench practicing his accordion while Nathaniel Brown is in the street teaching Greg Holeyman a few steps in the Morris English dance tradition. Brown says, “Morris is a unique folk dance tradition originating in the small villages of England.” He says their Foggy Bottom group was established 45 years ago, and their sashes are 70s earth tones.

Their group, the Foggy Bottom Morris Men, practices once a week and welcomes new members including four-year-old Bertie Marcus whose father is a member of the group. Bertie has been dancing with the group since February.

The day ends with Irish traditional music, Scandinavian dance and Orchestra Prazevica, a jug band and a ballad swap. 

And Sunday the festival will do it all over again.