Smithsonian Folklife Festival to Celebrate 50 Years of the Peace Corps

June 20, 2011
News Release

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Since 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order establishing the Peace Corps, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 countries. To celebrate 50 years of service around the world, “The Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Promoting World Peace and Friendship” will bring together volunteers—both past and present—with many of the people they have served. The program is produced in cooperation with the Peace Corps.

The Festival takes place Thursday, June 30, through Monday, July 4, and Thursday, July 7, through Monday, July 11, outdoors on the National Mall between Seventh and 14th Streets. All events are free. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

“The Peace Corps program at the Folklife Festival is designed not only to highlight the contributions and accomplishments of Peace Corps volunteers, staff members and host countries over the past five decades, but also to promote a greater understanding and appreciation of cultures from around the world,” said Jim Deutsch, program curator. “The program fulfills the shared goals of both the Smithsonian Institution and the Peace Corps: to present the diversity of world cultures and to build bridges of mutual respect between nations.”

On the program’s World Stage, visitors can enjoy performances from around the globe, such as the acclaimed Garifuna Collective, featuring musicians and singers from Belize and Guatemala; San dancers from Botswana whose traditional dances are used in social, religious and healing ceremonies; Tinikling dancers from the Philippines who move gracefully between pieces of bamboo that are rhythmically tapped together; and young artists from western Ukraine who perform traditional dances and songs, as well as original plays.

The program will also highlight Peace Corps volunteers’ many fields of service, such as agriculture, business, community and youth development, education and health. 

Visitors can watch and learn from demonstrations by traditional craftspeople from Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Morocco, Peru and Tonga. Ghanaian women will show visitors how to make natural cosmetics from shea butter, while participants from the Republic of Georgia will demonstrate wine-making. Colorful world maps—using a hand-drawn method developed by a Peace Corps volunteer—will illustrate how volunteers have found creative ways to teach children.

At the bottle wall, visitors can see how Peace Corps volunteers built a much-needed school in their Guatemalan community using discarded plastic bottles as building materials. In the Appropriate Technology tent, participants will present several simple but effective technologies, such as
pedal-powered cell-phone chargers from Zambia. 

The Home Cooking tent will feature ongoing demonstrations of food and cooking traditions, which have played a role in the experiences of Peace Corps volunteers around the world.

Participants from Jamaica will demonstrate organic farming techniques and methods. Representatives of Trees, Water & People, a non-profit organization co-founded by a Peace Corps volunteer, will show how they help communities protect, conserve and manage the natural resources on which their survival depends.

The program will also feature the Reunion Hall, where Peace Corps volunteers can connect or reconnect; the Oral Histories tent, where participants and visitors will share their personal stories about the Peace Corps; and the Peace Porch, where ongoing discussions on a wide variety of topics related to the Peace Corps experience will take place.


“The Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Promoting World Peace and Friendship” is produced in partnership with the Peace Corps. Major donor support comes from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. UPS Foundation is a contributor to the program.

About the Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. With approximately 1 million visitors each year, the Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The Festival’s website is

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