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Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrates the culture of the Arkansas Ozarks

2023 festival’s theme is ‘The Ozarks: Faces and Facets of a Region’

The 2023 Smithsonian Folklife Festival “The Ozarks: Faces and Facets of a Region” celebrates the culture of the Ozarks region of the U.S. from June 29 to July 4 and July 6 to July 9 at the National Mall between 12th and 14th streets in Washington, D.C. The festival takes place in collaboration with Arkansas Tourism, the University of Arkansas, Experience Fayetteville, the Committee of 100 for the Ozark Folk Center, the Windgate Foundation, Missouri State University and the Missouri Division of Tourism.
Daytime festival programs will feature musicians, dancers, chefs, artisans, storytellers and others from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On select evenings, special concerts will begin at 6 p.m. Admission to the festival is free and open to the public.
The term “Ozarks” has evolved throughout American history to describe the geographic region that today includes portions of Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. Known for its natural beauty and rugged terrain, the term Ozarks has also been applied to the specific culture of this area. The music, dance, food and crafts of the Ozarks reflect the unique experiences of the people from this region, which are celebrated by this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
“The Ozarks have long been known as a place unlike any other,” said Shea Lewis, interim secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “We are excited to see the natural and cultural history of this special place recognized on such a large scale and we are honored to be a part of sharing a snapshot of the Arkansas Ozarks with the rest of the world.”
“The Ozarks: Faces and Facets of a Region” will feature large-scale murals and a custom-built mountain bike trail, music jam sessions and performances, dance and craft workshops, food and plant educational demonstrations and curated discussions. Some examples of the festival programming include:

  • Pickin’ Parlor: Old-time music, bluegrass, shape-note singing, gospel, folk, contemporary music, comedy, storytelling, and jig and square-dancing workshops. Daily jam sessions will be hosted at the neighboring Guitar Workshop.
  • Cooks, Chefs and More: Top regional chefs at the forefront of foraging and farm-to-table practices will interact with visitors through discussions and demonstrations.
  • Teaching Garden: Inspired by the Heritage Herb Garden at the Ozark Folk Center State Park in Mountain View, Ark. Ozark native plants, trees, vegetables and “weeds” will be on display. Community gardeners, farmers, foragers, herbalists and spiritual leaders will concoct herbal remedies, lead foraging walks and share their deep knowledge and love of plants.

Arkansans who will be participating in the festival as presenters and subject experts in music, dance, entertainment, foodways and plant knowledge, and crafts include:
Music, Dance and Entertainment

  • Brockwell Gospel Music School – Loyanna M. Everett, shape note-singer; Beverly A. Meinzer, shape-note singer; Natalie M. Stephens, shape-note singer; and Justin Wilson, shape-note singer
  • The Ozark Highballers – Clarke Buehling, banjoist; Aviva Pilgrim, guitarist and luthier; Roy Pilgrim, fiddler; and Seth Shumate, harmonica player
  • Sylamore Special – Edward Turner Atwell, guitarist; Crystal Keen McCool, bassist; LillyAnne McCool, banjoist; Mary Parker, fiddler; Gordon Parker, mandolinist and jig dancer
  • Kalyn Fay Barnoski, guitarist and Cherokee weaver
  • Matt Magerkurth, cellist
  • Pam Setser, mountain dulcimer player and guitarist

Special Guest Musicians

  • MARK Harmony
  • Sad Daddy
  • Willi Carlisle, singer and poet
  • Melissa Carper, multi-instrumentalist and singer
  • Pura Coco, singer
  • DJ Raquel, DJ
  • Grace Stormont, singer and multi-instrumentalist

Foodways and Plant Knowledge

  • Susan Belsinger, herbalist and food writer
  • Josh Jansen, butcher
  • Nick Nichols, distiller
  • Matthew Sloan, distiller
  • Pat Johnson, cultural center leader
  • Emily Lawson, chef
  • Shoua Vue, chef and herbalist
  • Maria Cristina Moroles, curandera practitioner
  • Artemis Diaz, curandera apprentice
  • Rafael Rίos, chef
  • Román Rίos, chef
  • Phyllis Speer, chef and hunter
  • Tina Marie Wilcox, herbalist and gardener


  • Cory Perry, textile installation artist
  • Jacob Archer, textile installation artist assistant
  • Alan “Toxic” Rodriguez, muralist
  • Kayleigh “ktana” Tolman, muralist
  • Olivia Trimble, sign painter and muralist
  • Jennifer Northorp, sign painter assistant
  • Kholoud Sawaf, filmmaker

Marshallese Artisans

  • Clara Beasa, weaver
  • Tie Matthew, weaver
  • Lilen Gushi, weaver assistant and dancer
  • Miriam Pedro, weaver assistant and dancer
  • Shemi Sham, weaver assistant and dancer
  • Liton Beasa, canoe builder
  • Troy Boaz, canoe builder assistant and dancer
  • Tirja Bokna, canoe builder assistant and dancer
  • Witner John, canoe builder assistant and dancer
  • Wilifred Lawin, canoe builder assistant
  • Abraham Moore, canoe builder assistant
  • Litha Ralpho, coordinator
  • Lewisa Lawin, presenter and dancer


  • Simone Cottrell
  • Rachel Reynolds
  • Virginia Siegel
  • Lauren Adams Willette

Evening Concerts and Special Events
This year’s lineup of evening concerts features musicians from across the Ozarks and throughout the United States. Featured concerts are scheduled for June 29, July 1, July 4, July 6 and July 8. Community square dances will be held on July 1 and 8 after the concerts.
Concessions and Marketplace
The festival will sell food and drink inspired by the Ozarks and the country’s diverse spiritual traditions. Ozark Beer Company of Rogers will offer a curated collection of craft brews that represents the region’s expansive creative spirit.
The festival is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and presented in collaboration with the National Park Service. It is made possible by contributions from individuals and public, nonprofit and corporate entities. Promotional support is provided by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Area Authority (WMATA).
The program received federal funding support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino; the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative Pool. Promotional support is provided by MWAA, WMATA and Ozark Beer Company.

Arkansas Tourism
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit
Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
The Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism protects and promotes our state’s natural, cultural and historic assets, contributing to a thriving economy and high quality of life. It is made up of three divisions: Arkansas State Parks, Arkansas Heritage and Arkansas Tourism.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Inaugurated in 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival honors living cultural traditions and celebrates those who practice and sustain them. Produced annually by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and presented in association with the National Park Service, the festival has featured participants from all 50 states, every U.S. territory and more than 100 countries. Follow the festival on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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