The 46th Texas Folklife Festival kicked off Friday and is continuing through Saturday and Sunday at UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures. Dance stages, food stands, the Institute itself, and other exhibits for the weekend bring out a living, diverse cultural heritage that has shaped Texas’ history.

As many as 40 different cultural groups are represented by hundreds of participants gathered to exercise and showcase their traditions. Stages are set up in front of the museum, inside its auditorium, and around the back in an area named the Back 40.

“I’m in this area because I always try one of the different Lebanese shish kebobs,” said Stella Dimas, a regular attendee of the festival who was standing by the Lebanese Texans tent on the border of the Back 40 and behind Stage 4. Dimas was one of hundreds who came to the festival’s opening day Friday.

View the areas and lists of vendors on this map here.

“I’ve been coming for years because I enjoy seeing all the different tables and stands and learning,” Dimas said. “Its interesting to see how we all get along.”

While some food stands such as the Polish and Turkish stands are returners to the Festival, others such as Drakes’s Soul Food and Pho 4 Star are participating in the festivities for the first time.

“We missed the first 45 years, but at least we got started now,” said Tony Nguyen, who was at the Pho 4 Star tent. “When I look around there isn’t Vietnamese or Thai food, so we brought a combination of Vietnamese, Chinese, and Thai foods all in one to give people a different flavor and introduce our culture into the diversity.”

Crafting stations and tables covered with antique items also dot the grounds of the Back 40. At the end of a wooden table underneath the Pioneer Life tent, Johnny Stewart explained the meanings of different brands imprinted into sand.

“Johnny is a very knowledgable guy about [livestock] brands, and if you stand here he’ll teach you how they’re made and what they mean,” said Joe Todd, a participant at the Pioneer Life tent. “Life here didn’t always used to be so easy, and what we’re really trying to do is teach people. When kids come up here we like to entertain them, tell them tall tales, and have a good time.”

In one corner of the tent is a framed article featuring a picture of Todd’s father, Bill Todd, and O.T. Baker standing in front of the Wells Branch Homestead where Pioneer Life exhibits its only other annual display. O.T. Baker traveled to Washington D.C. in 1969 and attended the first Smithsonian Folklife Festival on behalf of the newly created Institute of Texan Culture. Baker returned and replicated the event, founding the Texas Folklife Festival in 1972.

“There’s so many different cultures represented here, and every year there’s different stuff,” Todd said. “Its just a nice evening in San Antonio on a June night. Can’t beat it, really.”

The festival is open Saturday, June 10 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, June 11 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Ticketing options and prices can be viewed here. To see Saturday’s entertainment schedule, click here, and for Sunday’s entertainment schedule, click here.

For more photos of the festival, click through the slideshow below.

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.