New Hampshire
Folklife in New Hampshire

1999 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

June 23 to July 4 1999
The National Mall, Washington DC

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an annual event sponsored by the Center for Folklife Studies and Cultural Heritage. It celebrates the living cultural traditions of the United States and other traditional cultures around the world.

The Home, Town Community theme hub was a gazebo adorned with colonial bunting.

The Home, Town Community theme hub was a gazebo adorned with colonial bunting.

The knowledge, skill, and wisdom of traditional musicians, crafts people, and occupational specialists are at the heart of the event. Tradition bearers actively demonstrate and perform in an educational setting that is sometimes referred to as a "museum exhibit without walls."

The Festival is based upon research conducted by folklorists and community scholars. The individuals featured at the Festival are community-based tradition bearers, many of whom have learned their skills through family or community "masters" over many years and even generations.

The annual two-week (10-day) festival is held late June through the July 4th weekend on the National Mall in Washington DC, which is located in the center of the Smithsonian Museum complex stretching between the US capitol building and the Washington monument. Over 1 million visitors come through the festival-representing people from all walks of life, cultural backgrounds, and parts of the world.

Each year, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival features three to four programs. One or two of them usually focus on regions or themes from the United States and one or two program focus on international programs.

The Ingenuity & Enterprise theme area hub was a sculpture garden of machine tool parts and equipment.

The Ingenuity & Enterprise theme area hub was a sculpture garden of machine tool parts and equipment.

The Festival strikes a good balance of being educational and entertaining. The program is overseen by a curator who establishes themes and writes up information that is place on signs throughout the festival site. Photographs, built structures, large equipment, and tools are sometimes displayed to help build up a natural context for the presentations. Folklorists and community scholars help talk to the visiting public about the traditions. A program book containing articles on aspects of the cultural traditions presented is published by the Smithsonian.

New Hampshire's presentation at the 1999 Smithsonian Folklife Festival - "Celebrating New Hampshire Stories"

In the summer of 1999, New Hampshire was one of three featured programs at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. New Hampshire was joined by two international programs, one representing the country of Romania and the other the country of South Africa. The dancers, musicians, craftspeople, and occupational specialists from all three countries shared ideas and an admiring public for two weeks.

The Temple Town Band marching down the National Mall during Old Home Day at the festival.

The Temple Town Band marching down the National Mall during Old Home Day at the festival.

The New Hampshire presentation was acclaimed as the largest state program in the 34-year history of the Festival. The festival is usually limited to 80-100 participants per program. However, over 140 performers, traditional craftsmen, and occupational specialists offially represented New Hampshire during the two-week event. Additionally, another 60-70 participants--band members, firemen and others--made special trips to Washington DC to help celebrate two days of special events: Old Home Day and a day to celebrate Franco-American Heritage in NH.

The tradition bearers who journeyed to Washington represented others around the state who make personal decisions to preserve heritage, regardless of whether they will ever become rich or famous. They know that heritage is something that helps give meaning to a community, a family, and an individual.

The materials for the New Hampshire program required 2 large container trucks and the New Hampshire National Guard provided 4 flate bed trucks. Materials included: over 28 tons of granite; a 36-foot covered bridge; over 12 tons of water cast brick; a timber framed barn and sugar house; a timber framed gate; a snow cat; a gazebo; a Shaker gate; live lobsters; machine tool sculptures; dishes, jams and other goodies for the NH kitchen; and over 100 barrels and baskets of flowers.

The program was titled "Celebrating New Hampshire Stories." and was made up of five theme areas that represent important perspectives on the living heritage of New Hampshire.

Learn about the festival themes.

Vice-President Gore, Governor Shaheen, New Hampshire Congressmen, National Congressmen and NBC's Willard Scott were just a few of the officals who toured the site. All in all, it was a great celebration, for New Hampshire and for the nation. Over 1 million visitors attended the festival over the course of the 2 weeks and everyone learned more about New Hampshire's special heriage..

How Did We Do It?

This large scale presentation would not have been possible without the generosity of private businesses, corporations, and individuals throughout the state. Many volunteers were needed to raise the funds and to help with the event in Washington. This outpouring of support and generosity was a testimony to the New Hampshire character and the long standing tradition of volunteerism.

Preparation for New Hampshire's program at the 1999 Smithsonian Folklife Festival took over two years. The research phase involved the efforts of over two dozen folklorists and community researchers who over a 10-month period traveled around the state interviewing tradition bearers, making notes, and taking photographs. The materials produced from the research carried out for the festival program are now part of a working collection housed at the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. These materials will ultimately be archived at the Milne Special Collections & Archives at the University of New Hampshire.


See photos of fieldwork in New Hampshire related to the themes of the New Hampshire program.

Learn more about how New Hampshire's program was put together and a day at the festival. View the images of the 1999 festival site at the National Mall in Washington DC. See the list of festival participants & presenters.


An informative program book is published by the Smithsonian each year to reach a broader audience. Several wonderful articles written by New Hampshire authors discuss aspects of traidition in New Hampshire.

Read the program book articles by New Hampshire authors

To commemorate the event, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts produced a compact disc of contra dance music called Choose Your Partners, which was released on Smithsonian Folkways.


Organizers & sponsors of the New Hampshire program included:

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts Traditional Arts Program and the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Studies were responsible for the research and program development of the Festival presentation. The program was developed by co-curators Lynn Martin Graton of the New Hampshire Arts Council and Betty Belanus of the Smithsonian Institution. The curators oversaw a research team of over two dozen folklorists and community scholars who contacted over 500 people in a little over six months.

The New Hampshire Commission on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, chaired by Mervin Stevens of Walpole, provided general oversight of the project and Celebrate New Hampshire Culture (1997-2002), an affiliated non profit organization, served as a fiscal agent spearheaded fundraising.

The presenting sponsor was Bell Atlantic (Verizon). Other major sponsors included Fleet Bank NH; Healthsource NH, A CIGNA Healthcare Company; Public Service of New Hampshire; Sanders, A Lockeed Martin Company; Tyco International Ltd.; Fidelity Investments; Fisher Scientific International Inc.; The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds, and the New Hampshire National Guard.

For a full list of staff, donations & sponsors, contact:

Traditional Arts Program of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Photo credits
All: Photographer - Lynn Martin Graton