Smithsonian Folklife Festival Focuses on Art, Culture of Wales

Thursday - 7/2/2009, 6:30am EDT

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By Max Cacas
FederalNewsRadio


After being closed for two days earlier this week, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is open once again on the National Mall in D.C.

This annual summer tradition has always provided an opportunity to sample the art and culture of both the United States, and our international neighbors.

This year is no different, according to Dr. Daniel Sheehy, acting director of the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, who says this festival honors Wales, one of the four British Island countries that, along with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, make up the United Kingdom.

"Wales treasures its past," says Sheehy, "it has beautiful landscapes, and it has one of the oldest languages in the world. At the same time, it's been on the forefront of technological development."

Sheehy adds the Industrial Revolution was born in Wales, where some of the first modern coal mines were opened in the late 1800s.

The Folklife Festival is known for being 'hands-on', especially when it comes to young children. Among the many craftsmen and skilled tradesmen whose work is featured, is Selwyn Jones, a stone carver who encourages youngsters to don protective eyewear, and wield a hammer and chisel, and experience carving a piece of limestone he brought with him from Bath, England.

Jones says coming to the Folklife Festival marks his, and his wife's first trip to Washington, D.C. "The interest that's been shown by the general public in my work has been phenomenal, just phenomenal."

You can find stone-carver Selwyn Jones, carpenters, rugby players, story tellers, and yes, triple harpists from Wales, in front of the old Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall.

The Folklife festival also features areas devoted to Central and South American music and culture, as well as African-American oral traditions. The Festival is open on the Mall from 11am to 5:30pm today through Sunday, with special concerts and other events on some evenings.

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