Swirling colors, wafts of exotic spices, and the sounds and textures of authentic and traditional folk and ethnic arts—Washington Square at the Salt Lake City & County Building dramatically transforms during one special weekend every spring.
Artists, volunteers, and performers—who are Ecuadorian, Samoan, Mexican, Polish, Greek, and more—bring the Living Traditions Festival to life. Presented by the Salt Lake City Arts Council, this 31-year-old festival has played host to the variety of cultures represented in Utah.
In a community not typically regarded as ethnically diverse, in terms of overall population, Living Traditions has shown, year after year, that there is certainly a wide variety of cultures represented throughout the Beehive State.
Many festival-goers are surprised by the vibrancy and diversity that comes from this shared community space with all of the disparate cultures calling Utah home. There’s festive costumes, traditional songs, soaring dances, culinary staples, and so much more.
It all patchworks together quite nicely over three days every year for the best way to celebrate of cultural differences in the state.
Non-profit groups and member clubs representing many cultures, nationalities, and ethnicities sell delicious fare at the Food Market; there are more than 20 vendors each year.
Snack on Bosnian cevapi, East African stew, Polish sausages, jor Tibetan momos, to name just a few of the delightful items for sale.
Among the other activities, there is a children's area with interactive arts and a Bocce ball pitch. The best part is that it's all free for the public.
Over at the Craft Market, purveyors sell souvenirs and home goods, as well as answer questions about traditional arts and crafts, such as Eastern European egg decoration or Navajo basket-weaving.
These are exceptional examples of traditional artistry, some of which are even created on-site by master artisans
The event's hallmark, however, is the selection of performing artists. More than 70 performances are presented on the festival's three stages. It’s the embodiment of religious celebration and the actualization of cultural heritage.
Some examples of the myriad performers include Bulgarka (Bulgarian Dance), Mountain West (Highland Dancers Scottish Music), Malialole and Island Harmony (Polynesian Music & Dance), and Intertribal Pow Wow (Native American Music & Dance).
Beyond the local manifestations of these cultures, the Living Traditions Festival books visiting performing artists and musicians. Incredible acts from all over the world have played on the Living Traditions stage—artists such as Malian singer Vieux Farka Touré, Nigerian guitarist Bombino and Chilean MC Ana Tijoux in recent years.
Living Traditions Festival is held on the lawns of Washington Square at the Salt Lake City & County Building (450 S. 200 East).
More information about this free three-day festival can be found at www.LivingTraditions.com.
Photographer's Note: The photos and story were originally commissioned by the Utah Office of Tourism.
Photographer and award-winning journalist Austen Diamond specializes in creative portraiture, commercial photography and editorial photojournalism. For booking inquiries and to view his portfolio, go to www.AustenDiamond.com.