- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy the many cultural activities at the opening of the 38th annual Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife Festival on the Mall, despite the steady rain yesterday.

Festivalgoers young and old didn’t waste any time immersing themselves into the different cultures represented at the 10-day outdoor festival and didn’t let the rain stop them from having a good time.

“This is great,” said Barbara Davenport, 76, of Silver Spring. “The rain isn’t bothering me at all. I came here to have a great time.”

And, they did.

The festival’s three main exhibits offered plenty of traditional Haitian and Hispanic foods and varieties of seafoodto sample. There also were workshops for children and adults who wanted to learn traditional Hispanic dances or how to build boats or work with clay and straw.

John Gilmer, 82, of Northwest, was a fan of “Nuestra Musica: Music in Latino Culture,” the first of four Hispanic music programs at the festival. “I came here to do Mexican-Latin dance, to meet our friends and to get a little culture,” he said.

Others enjoyed red beans and rice and learned about Haitian proverbs at the “Haiti: Freedom and Creativity from the Mountains to the Sea” exhibit.

Youngsters enjoyed the duck decoy-carving demonstrations at “Water Ways: Charting a Future for Mid-Atlantic Maritime Communities.”

“At first I didn’t even want to come because of the rain,” said Safoora Biglari, 10, of Potomac. “But then we made boats and learned how to pick up oysters with oyster tongs, so I had a lot of fun.”

Her younger sister Tara, 8, said she learned a lot about the Chesapeake Bay. “At first I didn’t want to come because of the rain either, but then I learned about the Chesapeake Bay and how to carve ducks, so I am glad I came,” she said.

Many even stayed longer than planned to take in more sights.

“We just got here a little while ago, and I am enjoying the food,” said Kelly Adams, 29, of Alexandria, as she ate Peruvian chicken. “Despite the rain, I am going to see what else is being offered.”

Many people came prepared with umbrellas, even though most of the exhibits, workshops and demonstrations are taking place under tents.

Chuck Gray, 63, of Hawkeye, Iowa, said he was pleased that he got to come to the festival and take in the sights and sounds.

“It is very interesting because we have seen a lot of things we have never seen before,” said Mr. Gray, as he held his 2-year-old grandson Samuel Harris, of Falls Church, in front of the old-fashioned Carousel on the Mall. “When you’re from where I am, you don’t get much of a chance to participate in things like this.”

The festival, which takes place between Seventh and 14 streets NW, will run through Sunday and from June 30 through July 4. All events are free.

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