Every year, the festival draws hundreds of participants from more than 40 different cultural groups to come together to celebrate heritage and culture. It will include crafts, music, and dance performances, as well as a variety of foods from different ethnic groups that now call Texas home.
This year’s food selection will include Japanese, Polish, Lebanese, Turkish, Belgian, and Indian dishes. There will be on-site demonstrations and hands-on tutorials for basket-weaving, wood work, and rope and clay making, too.
Festival hours are Friday, June 10, from 5-11 p.m., Saturday, June 11, from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday, June 12, from noon-7 p.m.
Adult tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the gate. Children’s tickets are $5 in advance and at the gate, and children under 5 get free admission. Group sales of 10 adult tickets or more are $8 each in advance.
For a detailed map and full list of food and crafts booths, click here.
The three-day festival will include performances by Conjunto Kingz de Flavio Longoria, Dallas-based band Hot House, Lebanese folk dancers, The Ballet Folklorico de San Antonio, Ukranian folk dancers, and even a Micronesian dance group.
For a list of all festival performances, click here.
The Folklife festival was modeled after the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which was first held in 1967 in Washington, D.C. Texas Folklife Festival founder O.T. Baker attended the inaugural Smithsonian Folklife Festival and decided to replicate the festivities in his hometown.
The first Texas Folklife Festival was held in 1972 and Baker served as festival director until 1976. Claudia Ball directed the festival from 1976 to 1980, and Jo Ann Andera succeeded Ball in 1981 and has remained festival director for the past 35 years.
But Andera’s familiarity with the festival didn’t begin with her role as director. As a young girl she spent her summers following her parents’ roots and learned Lebanese folk dances and, therefore, had experience performing on festival grounds. Andera eventually began her career at the festival as a multilingual guide in 1970, before she became director in 1981.
“Having been on the other side of the fans, I knew what it took to get the performers here and perform,” Andera said. “I had an inside look at all the the amazing feats and the costumes.”
There was a huge learning curve when she first stepped into her role as festival director, but Andera found support through smaller festivals that combined resources and created a support network. Andera later became a key figure in founding the Texas Festivals and Events Association and was an International Festivals and Events Association board chair. The International Festivals and Events Association inducted her into their Hall of Fame in 1998.
The Folklife festival has changed over the years, Andera said. She can’t pinpoint a particular performance or event that has stood out the most, she said, because every year has been different and unique.
“In the early early years, we had a slapstick comedy group, flatbed trailers for stages, and we would build a log cabin every year. We also had a Possum Queen who’d parade through the crowd, a pair of oxen named Tom and Jerry, and even a sugar cane mill,” Andera said. “(Unfortunately) these kinds of pioneer crafts don’t exist anymore. We’ve lost so much of those kinds of crafts and art forms.”
Today, it’s harder for people to take time off work to go to these kinds of festivals, and the traditions get lost over generations, she said. Even though times have changed, Andera still loves her job and firmly believes that the Texas Folklife Festival is a huge economic generator for the community.
“The festival participants are the heart and soul of this festival,” she said. “Without them we wouldn’t have a festival and that has been the best part of my job, knowing these people and being able to work with them to continue their tradition.”
This year, festival-goers can opt to leave their car at home and use VIA Metropolitan Transit, Lyft, or a bike from B-Cycle‘s pop up bike stations as alternate forms of transportation to and from the festival.
Graduation events at the Alamodome and construction in the area are expected to cause delays and heavier traffic.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR OPTIMIZING YOUR FESTIVAL EXPERIENCE
- Opt to use rideshare, VIA, or B-Cycle to get to the event.
- Come prepared to eat, drink, learn, and have fun.
- If you wish to leave the grounds and return, please have your hand stamped at the gate.
- The festival’s five stages, located throughout the grounds, feature all types of ethnic and cultural entertainment. Be on the lookout for performers roaming the grounds.
- Food and drinks are sold by coupon and festival coins only. Coupons and coins may be purchased for $1 each at booths located throughout the grounds.
- Portable toilets are located throughout the grounds. Restrooms are located inside the museum on the first floor.
- ATMs are available near entry gates 1 and 3 and inside the museum building.
- No pets (except for service animals) are allowed on the festival grounds.
For more information, visit the Texas Folklife Festival’s website.
*Top image: A cowboy performs at the Texas Folklife Festival. Photo courtesy of the Texas Folklife Festival.