Like Yeasayer, I couldn’t wait for the summer. The freedom, the sunshine, the long bike rides to nowhere and the anticipation of adventures to come seemed to be just what I needed after an intense freshman year. In the spirit of spontaneity, my friend and I hopped in the car the other weekend and, armed with two water bottles, gallons of sunscreen and summer outfits the information desk attendant said were reminiscent of the new cult film Frances Ha drove to Glen Echo Park for the 33rd Annual Washington Folk Festival.

Glen Echo, tucked neatly between the wooded McMansions of the Potomac and the rocky shoals of the suburb’s namesake river, is the epitome of a throwback. The park’s art deco architecture transports you back to the time when the Spanish Ballroom was first alive with the sound of tap shoes, when the Crystal Pool was more than a decorated bold-print sign and when the Cuddle Up Stage was the go-to weekend hangout spot. Anchoring Glen Echo’s various arenas and craft houses is theDentzel carousel, a spinning kaleidoscope of horses frozen in action, forever galloping up and down. The Folk Festival spun out from the carousel with homegrown southern bluegrass and spicy Latina riffs, adding a dollop of cultural eclecticism to the sweltering summer afternoon.

After weaving our way over the river and through the woods, my friend and I joined the crowds ofTeva-wearers ogling over displays of handmade pottery in front of equally handmade-looking wood yurts.  Ornate clay jars, bowls and nearly every other type of container fresh off of the potter’s wheel lined the sidewalk, celebrating the art of craftsmanship and pointing us toward the park’s merry-go-round epicenter. However, we quickly got sidetracked upon the sight of hypnotizing colorful spirals waving from a nearby fence. Flapping in the breeze, the epitome of summer was right in front of us: tie-dye. To give a good dose of the classic American camp staple, the festival provided a tie-dye station complete with an array of colors and white apparel just waiting to be transformed. We hovered around the station for quite some time, our imaginations and creative sides itching to create the quintessential tie-dye swirl, before our empty wallets and sense of time brought us back to reality. And so we pushed on.

Our first stop was the former Bumper Car Pavilion, converted into an open-air marketplace for local artisans selling everything from herbal aromatics and perfumes to knitwear and jewelry. Many of these trinkets represented foreign cultures, traditions and activities, including Swedish house decor and painted Dutch hex signs. Swaying to the banjo twang soundtrack coming off of the nearby Cuddle Up Stage, we soaked up the pavilion’s diversity by adorning ourselves in elaborate beadwork, trying on feather masks and “Dragon’s Blood” perfume and, like all good caffeine-devotees, buying hand-glazed espresso cups. Clutching our newfound purchases, we then got to witness a passing local Scottish dance troupe in full plaid garb perform.

All cliches aside, we were literally kids in a cultural candy shop. The Bumper Car Pavilion marketplace, as well as the entirety of the festival, didn’t just provide a window into the countless folk traditions coexisting in the D.C. area, it brought them to life. In the Spanish Ballroom, we watched a West African dance company and a group of little kids participating in family dance lessons. We admiredfingerpicking guitarists and banjo players on various other stages before finally orbiting back to the central revolving carousel. It didn’t matter that we were the only two people under 40 and over 12 at Glen Echo: It was a vibrant, cultural melting pot, and the sheer multiplicity of the festival was enough to keep us going for days.

Margie Fuchs is a sophomore in the College. SUMMER OF FOLK appears every other week online in The Guide.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*