Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will stay on National Mall

WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - Feather-crowned traditional dancers from Kenya got things going Wednesday as the Folklife Festival opened on the National Mall with the focus this year on the cultures of Kenya and China.

From China, there was the bamboo mouth organ with intricate embroidery that this artist says she first learned 30 years ago from her grandmother, as well as these decorated mountain women who make their own paper, and say they love being here.

Next door at the Kenya section, African boats and huts and these sculptures are all made from the flip-flops that wash upon their Indian Ocean shores.

For the next two weeks, expect the mall to be a busy place where you can learn about other cultures. And visiting performers like this Kenyan high school music teacher can learn as well:

"Exchanging musical ideas, cultural ideas, life ideas. It's a really, really great initiative," says Allen Wanjohi.

The National Park Service says it has reached an agreement with the Smithsonian Institution to keep the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall.

The agency announced a new five-year agreement Wednesday that will be signed during the festival's opening ceremony. Some festival supporters have worried new turf regulations on the National Mall would force the festival to relocate elsewhere.

The agreement calls for the festival to be held on the National Mall between 7th and 14th streets for the next five years whenever possible.

Next year the festival will be held between 3rd and 7th streets on the mall during the second phase of a turf restoration project. The park service says it will work with the Smithsonian to find a suitable location during the turf overhaul.