Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2023 Celebrates the Culture of the Ozarks and Looks at Creativity and Spirituality in the U.S.

April 20, 2023
News Release
Social Media Share Tools
Folklife Festival 2023

2023 Smithsonian Folkife Festival, June 29 to July 4 and July 6 to July 9

Visitors to the 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival will experience this country’s diverse cultural landscape in two featured programs: “The Ozarks: Faces and Facets of a Region” and “Creative Encounters: Living Religions in the U.S.”

The festival will be presented from June 29 to July 4 and July 6 to July 9. Most activities will take place on the National Mall between 12th and 14th streets. Daytime programs by musicians, dancers, cooks, artisans, storytellers and others will run from 11 a.m. through 5:30 p.m. On select evenings, special concerts will begin at 6 p.m. Admission to the festival is free and open to the public.

“This year marks a much-desired return to programs featuring cultural stories found throughout the U.S.,” said Sabrina Lynn Motley, festival director. “The opportunity to look within presented us with a timely challenge requiring our partners and staff to bring fresh eyes to the familiar, push beyond tired stereotypes and highlight diverse sources of creativity and community.”  

The festival is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and presented in collaboration with the National Park Service. It is made possible by contributions from individuals and public, nonprofit and corporate entities. Promotional support is provided by The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Area Authority (WMATA).

The Ozarks: Faces and Facets of a Region

The Ozarks’ name has its historic origins in how Native Illini peoples referred to their southern neighbors who dwelled in the lands where the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi River. Today, it is generally recognized as a geographic expanse stretching across portions of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois, and is known for a distinct blend of caves, streams, hills, forests and fields. Culturally, the region’s music, dance, food and crafts reflect interactions between long-established populations and new immigrants, urban and rural communities.

The program will feature large-scale murals and a mountain-bike trail build, music jam sessions and performances, dance and plant-knowledge workshops, food and craft demonstrations, and curated discussions.

“The Ozarks: Faces and Facets of a Region” is sponsored by Missouri State University, Missouri Division of Tourism, Arkansas Tourism, the Windgate Foundation, University of Arkansas, Experience Fayetteville and Committee of 100 for the Ozark Folk Center. The program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the National Museum of the American Latino; the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative Pool.

Creative Encounters: Living Religions in the U.S.

Religion, faith, spirituality and ethical humanism are important sources of creativity and meaning for many Americans. The crafts, food, music, dance and stories they animate can foster deep understanding and engagement. Conversely, they can also fuel social disaffection and disruption. In 2023, the festival will take a deep look at the “creative encounters” that arise from the diversity of religious and ethical humanist knowledge, experience and practice found throughout the United States. Similar to past festival programs, “Creative Encounters” will bring musicians, cooks, artisans, storytellers and other participants to share their lives, skills and practices as well as explore with visitors their own belief systems and how religion shapes their lives. The program is organized around the following themes: Makers of Faith, Sound Religion, Body and Spirit, Kitchen Theology and Futurisms.

“Creative Encounters: Living Religion in the U.S.” is made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative. The program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the National Museum of the American Latino, and the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.

Evening Concerts and Special Events

On select evenings, concerts by iconic bands and up-and-coming artists will begin at 6 p.m. Special July Fourth performances will include “De Liberate: Sounds of Freedom and Hope from Ukraine” and southern rock legends The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. More special programs include a 75th anniversary celebration of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings featuring Jake Blount and No-No Boy (July 6) and a tribute to acclaimed musicologist/folklorist Mack McCormick presented by Folkways and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (July 9).

Concessions and Marketplace

Throughout the 10 days, food and drink by Stevensville, Maryland’s Bark Barbecue Cafe and craft brews by Fayetteville, Arkansas’ Ozark Beer Company will be available for purchase. Bark Barbecue Cafe will sell food and drink inspired by the Ozarks and the country’s diverse spiritual traditions. Ozark Beer Company will offer a curated collection of craft brews that represents the region’s rich creative spirit. In a nod to the Smithsonian’s continued commitment to sustainability, visitors will be encouraged to shop the Folklife Festival’s online Marketplace, a partnership with the world’s largest online fair-trade retailer, NOVICA.


The festival strives to maintain an accessible and inclusive environment for all visitors.  Accessible seating is available at all performance venues, and a limited number of wheelchairs are available for loan each day. Assistive listening devices are available, and American Sign Language interpretation, real-time captioning and audio description services will be offered for a wide range of events. Additional resources and supports include large-print and Braille materials and a festival sensory guide. The festival will host “Morning on the Mall” events. For more information and to register for the event, email access@si.eduUpdated information, resources and accessibility service schedules will be updated throughout the Folklife Festival.

About the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Inaugurated in 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival honors living cultural traditions and celebrates those who practice and sustain them. Produced annually by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and presented in association with the National Park Service, the festival has featured participants from all 50 states, every U.S. territory and more than 100 countries. Follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

# # #



Download sff23-media-images.pdf (4.01 MB)
Media Only

Amy Kehs


Linda St. Thomas


Public Programs