Living Traditions Celebrates 30th Year

Addison Butler


Boasting a surprisingly diverse and ethnically rich community, the citizens of Salt Lake City have warmly welcomed cultures from across the globe for decades. From native Americans to Swedish pioneers to refugees from Africa, the Salt Lake Valley is home to many. Made possible by the Salt Lake Arts Council, the Living Traditions Festival brings this diversity to life for one weekend every spring, granting Utahans from all walks of life an opportunity to experience the rich culture contained within the community.

Set against the backdrop of the historic Salt Lake City and County Building, this year’s event runs through Sunday and marks the 30th anniversary of the festival. The bright and celebratory atmosphere of Living Traditions manifests itself in an array of music, dance, crafts and food. And the best part? Admission is free, making this a spectacular way to spend an otherwise lazy weekend afternoon.

Three stages will surround the City and County Building where various performers will delight audiences with lively, traditional music and dancing. You can expect things from Bulgaria, Native America, the Andes, Rwanda and Burundi.

Not all of the performances will be strictly traditional, however. In fact, two very special performances by Bombino and A Tribe Called Red will take place on Friday and Saturday night, respectively. These special guests will take the stage for a longer block of time to fuse traditional elements with contemporary sounds in an unforgettable way.

Of course there will de delicious, authentic food sold throughout the festival, ranging anywhere from American Indian, Chinese and African to Soul Food and much more. All of these booths will be run by locals with unique and direct ties to their heritage, ensuring that the food sold is as scrumptious as it sounds.

Vendors will also be scattered about the park, selling hand-made jewelry, clothing and home decor as well as offering lessons on how to make traditional crafts.

Because this year’s events mark the 30th Anniversary of the Living Traditions Festival, there will be an additional exhibition entitled “30 Years of Living Traditions,” which will go over some of the history of the festival and the sense of community it brought to Salt Lake through it three decades ago.

The Living Traditions Festival sprouted from a traveling art instillation in May of 1986. During that year, the “Prairie Ship Liberty” sailed across the United States to celebrate America’s cultural diversity at a number of cities. The “ship” was, in reality, a $900,000 sculpture designed by Naj Wikoff, and as a part of his installation he asked the communities he visited to pull together an ethnic festival to house the sculpture. Salt Lake City jumped on the opportunity and thus the Living Traditions Festival was born.

Additional information and a full list of events/food/vendors is available at


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