The Circus Comes to Town

Every year, the Smithsonian holds a Folklife Festival on the Mall in Washington during the last week in June and the first week in July. This year was special, because 2017 marks the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s 50th anniversary.

Most of the recent festivals have followed a similar format, celebrating a US state or region, a foreign culture or area, and/or a traditional occupation. In 2016, for instance, the two main themes were “Basque: Innovation by Culture” and “Sounds of California.”

This year’s festival was easily the most fascinating and entertaining I’ve ever visited, because the main attraction was a tribute to…Circus Arts!

And it was wonderful!


One of the displays was this classic Circus Wagon.

You could watch close-up performances by clowns and jugglers…

…and not-so-close-up performances by acrobats and trapeze artists.

In addition to the open-air displays, the festival included full performances in its own Big Top, and in one of the Smithsonian buildings. But for me, the best part was the panel discussions featuring circus people talking about their careers and training and lives in the circus. Heard some awesome stories during my two visits to the festival.