Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival started yesterday, and runs through next weekend (June 29-July 4 and July 7-10). It features Basque culture and the sounds of California. There’s lots to see, but here are some things we especially recommend:

Basque Dancing

There’s both traditional and contemporary dance:



Rural Basque Sports

Want to see some sports that we don’t usually see, that are both creative and really difficult?

The anvil lift


The object is to do 100 lifts, touching a 10-kilo anvil to the base and then the top plate. The winner was a man doing it solo, in 1 minute 41 seconds. The women did it in teams of two, trading off after each 25 lifts. They were only a few seconds slower than the male time, which factoring in the time it took to do the relay exchanges, is really impressive.

Sawing slices


The goal is to saw 6 slices, each one a full slice but no thicker than 3 centimeters, so it requires both speed and precision. The winning time was 2 minutes 56 seconds.

The sandbag run


This involves running several times around a short course with a 40(!) kilo sandbag.

(Curious what the numbers in the background are? It’s a stage painted to look like a traditional Basque multi-purpose public space.)


The Basques led the whaling industry in the 16th century, using a small fast boat called a txalupa. Craftsmen who have studied the historical techniques brought a skeleton of a 26-foot txalupa to the Festival, and will be working on it during the Festival.


photos copyright Victoria Pickering