3 Free Summer Festivals in Washington, D.C.

Outdoor summer festivals are popular in the nation’s capital. These three free festivals are reliable crowd pleasers.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is the most popular summer festival in Washington, D.C., drawing crowds 1 million strong during its 8 day run. Festival organizers warn visitors to dress for hot and humid weather. The festival almost always coincides with the hottest temperatures of the year along with a heavy dose of humidity. This means the lines for drinks will be long, so it’s a good idea to bring an iced water bottle.

The theme for 2012 is Campus and Community, commemorating the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the land-grant universities. Community arts will be a key feature of the festival.

The AIDS Memorial quilt, 25 years in the making, will be unfolded for display each morning. Activities exploring the artistry and impact of the AIDS quilt will fill out the day.

This year’s festival also includes a tribute to local go-go legend Chuck Brown who died earlier this year.

Held on the national mall, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival gets underway June 27 to July 1, takes a break, and returns July 4 to July 8.

DC Blues Festival at Carter Barron Amphitheater

For the 24th year, the D.C. Blues Society will host a free annual festival. This year’s event takes place Sept. 1 at Carter Barron Amphitheater. One of this year’s performers is Clarence “The Bluesman” Turner. Turner is a home-grown bluesman who got his start playing in D.C. clubs and ultimately perfecting his guitar playing and developing a unique style using whatever was at hand from microphone to cellphone as a guitar pick. He’s performed at the area’s premier jazz and supper club, Blues Alley, and is a regular on the local festival circuit putting in appearances at Takoma Park Jazzfest and the Safeway Barbecue Battle.

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Other performers include Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, Sista Monica Parker, the Lionel Young Band, and the D.C. Blues Society Band.

Takoma Park Folk Festival

The Takoma Park community just outside D.C. proper has been bringing together the area’s best homegrown musical talent since 1978. This year’s Takoma Park Folk Festival takes place Sept. 9 on the grounds of Takoma Park Middle School.

The performers donate their time to this event with proceeds supporting local nonprofits. This year’s line-up is still in the planning stages. The show will honor the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie.

The folk festival is a popular event, with crowds approaching 6,000. While the music is the mainstay, the juried craft fair is also extremely popular. Pottery, jewelry, and tie-dye are among the many crafts featured. This is an opportunity to find unique holiday gifts for those thinking ahead.

There are activities geared specifically for children including music for the toddler set, carnival games provided by a local Boy Scout troop, face painting and temporary tattoos. All of the expected fair foods make an appearance, from funnel cakes to icy treats.