Folklife Festival 2014 Features “America’s No. 1 Enemy” and “Obama’s Birthplace”

Folklife Festival Kenya thatch hut

Peeping Tom at the Kenyan thatch hut (Photo By: heydayjoe)

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is the annual event in which America feigns interest in cultural traditions that are not her own, typically from countries we consider to be our pals. But not this year. Throwing caution to the five winds, organizers decided to fulfill the most paranoid delusions of the Tea Party faithful – that Obama is a Muslim, Kenyan-born, kowtowing Commie – by bucking tradition and featuring the cultural folklore of Kenya and China. (Congratulations, China, on surpassing Iran this year as our No. 1 enemy!)

Launched during the Summer of Love in 1967, the free-of-charge Folklife Festival is the largest cultural event in DC, drawing more than 1 million visitors to sweat together under tents each year.

Held outdoors on the National Mall for two weeks every summer, Folklife over the years has brought more than 23,000 artists, musicians, performers, craftspeople, cooks, workers, storytellers and others to the Mall to demonstrate their creative traditions. To help us remember America’s still No. 1, though, the festival always overlaps the Fourth of July. (NOTE: Our tradition of eating BBQ, drinking beer, wearing the American flag and blowing sh*t up will always trump your quaint costumed dances and soapstone hippo carvings.)

Folklife has featured tradition bearers from more than 90 countries and is “an international exposition of living cultural heritage,” according to its producer, the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. It’s a chance for Americans to see other cultures without having to leave America, like visiting Chinatown or going to the Bronx.

Folklife Festival Tian Tian Xiang Shang Gateway

Danny Yung’s comic figure Tian Tian points to his Tian Tian Xiang Shang Gateway. Yung is the founder of avant-garde arts group Zuni Icosahedron and is revered as the “cultural godfather” of Hong Kong. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Programs at Folklife are usually divided into a nation, region, state or theme. Some are more exotic than others. Topics have included Workers at the White House, King Island Eskimo Dancers, Streetplay, Portuguese-American Fado Musicians, Iroquois Confederacy, American Trial Lawyers, Meat Cutters and Butchers, Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon, Gateways to Romania, Organ Builders and Iowa: Community Style.

To bring these programs to life, the Festival has built an array of cultural re-creations, including an Indian village with 40-foot-high bamboo and paper statues, a Japanese rice paddy, a New Mexican adobe plaza and a horse racetrack that stretched from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol Building.

This year, Folklife constructed the enormous Tian Tian Xiang Shang Gateway at the western entrance to the festival, to remind festivalgoers that China has a lighter side, one that it plans to employ when it crushes America with its growing economic power. Rather than showing off its more recent traditions of cultural repression and citizen intimidation, China instead featured such cultural customs as clay sculpture, traditional Inner Mongolian music and kite-making. If you want a taste of real Chinese economic influence, visit DC’s new Walmart at 1st and H Street NW.

The video below features Inner Mongolian ensemble Ih Tsetsn performing at the Moonrise Pavilion on July 5. The band’s name means “broad, inclusive and wise” in the Mongolian language, and their music was just that – showcasing the morin khuur (horse-head fiddle), topshuur (two-stringed plucked instrument), long song and khoomei throat-singing. We dare you not to belch along.

The Kenya programs at Folklife featured natives dressed like Marion Barry during his African-garb phase, wild booty-shaking percussion music and fantastic huts made of recycled bottles, tin, bottle caps, broken tiles and glass.

The video below features Makadem, a Kenyan artist specializing in Benga music, performing with his band at the Ngoma Stage on June 29.

Check out the photos below for more highlights of the Folklife Festival 2014.

Click here to see more 2014 Folklife Festival videos on Heyday DC’s YouTube channel.

Wish We Here — DC Postcards #9

Happy Summer Solstice 2014, the longest day of the year! Here’s our latest altered DC postcard, encouraging you to tour DC’s Space Needle, follow the National Arboretum trail to the top of Mount Hamilton (240 feet above sea level!), kayak Rock Creek (if the water’s at least two feet deep!) and visit a farm(ers market). Just remember: No matter what you do this summer weekend, Obama will be watching you…

DC postcard

(Image By: Matt Wainwright)

Born to Be Mild: Rolling Thunder Rumbles into DC

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

On Memorial Day weekend, the patriotic motorcycle rally Rolling Thunder rumbled into DC for its annual tribute to our country’s veterans. Tens of thousands of Baby Boomer bikers roared down the streets of DC to honor fallen soldiers, living veterans, prisoners of war and, particularly, those still missing in action.

Rolling Thunder’s mission is to educate, facilitate, and never forget by means of a demonstration for service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War. Rolling Thunder has also evolved into a display of patriotism and respect for all who defend our country.”

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

The annual ride and gathering first began in 1988 as the Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run. Riders from across the country rallied in the Pentagon parking lots before cruising the streets of DC together because … freedom.

Some of these motorcycle enthusiasts have been fighting for their right to be heard for 50 years – essentially this is your grandfather’s motorcycle club – and they know how to make some noise. Baby Boomers hold more than half of all American wealth, and this capitol convergence showcases perhaps the finest collection of beautiful modern, vintage and iconic motorcycles to ever grace the grassy fields of the National Mall.

Given their need to accommodate expanding cargo, these elegant bikes are built for the ultimate comfortable ride. Most include custom amenities for the long haul, with one exception: the quiet muffler, which could stifle the sound of elderly rebellion. Sure, you can take the rebellion out of the aging rebel, but you can’t take the squeal out of the hog – unless you have patriotism-regulating Patriot Defenders pipes. In other words, patriotism needs to be heard to be seen but not necessarily seen to be understood. Got that? Freedom!

Cowboy Indian Alliance Rally Ends with a Bang and a Whoop

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

On Saturday, April 26, at 11 a.m., thousands gathered on the National Mall for the finale of a weeklong protest to reject construction of a transcontinental oil pipeline and protect America’s land and water.

Hosted by the Cowboy Indian Alliance – a group of ranchers, farmers and Native American tribal communities – the “Reject and Protect” protest sought to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed TransCanada pipeline would carry crude oil from the tar sands of Canada’s Alberta province to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Although there were a half dozen teepees and a smattering of Native Americans and aboriginal Canadians in the crowd, the closest thing to a cowboy appeared to be Neil Young – and he’s Canadian. Following a series of speakers, the protesters gathered behind Neil and tribal leaders and marched to the White House to present President Obama with a hand-painted teepee. Since the proposed pipeline would cross an international border, it needs Obama’s approval to move forward. Although the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline has been in limbo for five years, Obama is waiting for a recommendation from Secretary of State John Kerry before he makes his final decision.

Click on the thumbnails below to see shots from the rally and the march.

Holding Out for Some Heroes

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

On Friday, DC’s Awesome Con, a self-described “comic-con that embraces all aspects of geekdom and pop culture,” attempted to break the Guinness World Record for most assembled costume players photographed at one time. The clarion calls went out through social media, microphones and bullhorns for all superheroes (and villains) to meet at noon at the Reflecting Pool in front of the U.S. Capitol. The goal was to beat the current world record held by China’s World Joyland, the Chinese equivalent of Disneyland, which gathered 1,530 costumed characters on April 19, 2011.

There must have been a confluence of worldwide calamities yesterday, because only 237 superheroes showed up – and most of them were under four feet tall.

Heyday DC was there on the National Mall to witness this grand fizzle of a nonhistoric non-event. Click on the photos below to see some of our favorite costumed crusaders.

 

Overheard: Spider-Man Caught in Political Web

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

(Photo By: heydayjoe)

 

Welcome to the second in our series of eavesdropped conversations.

[We couldn’t help but overhear your private conversation in a public place.]

 

EXT. NATIONAL MALL, NEAR REFLECTING POOL IN FRONT OF U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING – JUST AFTER NOON

Hundreds of costumed crusaders are gathered in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most assembled costume players gathered in one place. Cameramen and reporters swarm the crowd looking for the inside scoop on how it feels to pretend to be a superhero. A reporter confronts one of the more authentic-looking spider-men, among a half-dozen imposters.

FEMALE REPORTER

Spider-Man. Can I ask you a question?

SPIDER-MAN

[strikes superhero pose with hands on hips, feet in a wide stance and head held high)

Yes!

FEMALE REPORTER

What do you think of the funding being given to science programs in elementary schools?