Festivities mark museum opening

September 19, 2004|By SAM SESSA

To celebrate its grand opening, the National Museum of the American Indian is throwing a six-day First Americans Festival, which begins Tuesday. Highlights of the festival, which will be held on the National Mall, include:

Native Nations Procession: Composed of nearly 20,000 Native Americans in traditional dress, the walk begins at the Smithsonian Castle at 9:30 a.m. and culminates at noon with an hour-long dedication ceremony held outside the new museum.

After the dedication, the museum's doors open to the public and, to accommodate the large numbers of visitors expected, they will stay open overnight, until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Outdoor festival: This event begins at 1 p.m. and will feature concerts, dance performances, demonstrations and a marketplace with Native-made crafts.

There will be music ranging from traditional chants, hymns and throat-singing to contemporary blues, rock and hip-hop. More than 300 participants representing about 50 tribes will demonstrate various Native American cultural traditions. Visitors can watch dance and storytelling performances and enter pavilions with instrument and dance regalia-making demonstrations.

The festival also includes the Three Sisters Cafe, which offers native foods such as corn, beans, squash, caribou and buffalo.

Concert series: At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, a series of concerts emceed by comedian Charlie Hill will cap the day's festivities. Performers include singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, world musician Lila Downs, gospel and rhythm and blues artist Rita Coolidge and Indigenous, a blues-rock family quartet.

Ticket information: Because of the number of visitors expected on opening day, a limited number of free, timed-entry passes will be distributed Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m., on the museum's northwest corner at 4th Street and Jefferson Drive. No passes are needed for entry after midnight Tuesday.

Visitors without timed entry passes can wait in line to enter the museum on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 202-633-1000 or visit nmai.si.edu online for more information.

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