The Living Traditions Festival is an iconic cultural celebration of Utah’s diversity, but it’s also still evolving — marking its 34th year by shifting its location, offering workshops in cooking and creativity and welcoming new food vendors, crafters and performers.
Here are five changes you’ll see as the free festival kicks off its three-day run at 5 p.m. Friday (May 17) and runs through 7 p.m. Sunday in downtown Salt Lake City.
A new home
The huge event, held the last three decades at Washington Square, is moving a block east to Library Square this year. Food vendors will remain on 200 East, closed between 400 South and 500 South; many groups use the proceeds from their booths to fund cultural activities.
“The new venue gives us more room to spread out and better accessibility to the TRAX line,” said Matt Thurber, communications manager for the festival.
A chance to learn
Workshops will teach skills such as playing the didgeridoo or making Mexican paper roses; cooking Filipino lumpias or preparing boulani and cilantro chutney; enjoying meditation, yoga, Bollywood dancing or hula. All require advance registration at livingtraditionsfestival.com.
La Michoacana ice cream parlors, popular throughout Mexico and spreading to American cities, inspired the Terrazas family to open La Michoacana Ice Cream & Paletas in Taylorsville last year, Samuel Terrazas said.
Their paletas, made in-house, look like juice bars and fall into two main categories: those with dairy and those made with juice and fresh fruit. An avocado paleta has the sweetness of ice cream with the consistency and taste of avocados; some fruit paletas are made with chili powder to be sweet and salty.
“We spent some time in Michoacan and learned the techniques and recipes that the locals used,” Terrazas explained in an email. “And now for the first time, La Michoacana’s delicious, authentic ice cream like horchata, avocado, pistachio, mango, strawberry and pine nut, along with many more flavors, are available in Utah.”
La Michoacana Ice Cream & Paletas join other first-time vendors, including these:
Bolivia Utah Association: Its menu includes chicharrón Boliviano (fried pork served with corn and criollo sauce), pacumuto (beef, chicken and bell pepper served with yucca and rice), sonso (yucca dough with cheese), empanadas (beef or chicken wrapped in pastry), pastel (cheese empanadas), chicha de mani (roasted peanut drink) and other beverages, and alfajores (Bolivian cookies).
Alliance Francaise SLC and Westminster French Club: These partners will serve salade de riz a la nicoise, quiche Lorraine, crepes, pain au chocolate and more.
African Spice: Chef Miatta Stevens-Nahas is from Sierra Leone but fled to Ghana when war broke out. Her menu of foods from Ghana includes jollof rice with vegetables, a chicken and plantain plate, grilled chicken leg with spicy peanut sauce, spiced plantain on a stick and banana fritters.
Jayhawks Club: Its menu includes Indian tacos with steak, ground beef or vegetarian fillings; and sweet fry bread with honey butter, powdered sugar, strawberries and cream, Nutella or bananas.
AM Bor: Chef Alual Kuol Majok spends her winters in her homeland of Sudan but returns to Salt Lake City every year to run Am Bor Sudanese Cuisine. Her menu includes spinach and couscous, chicken sheia, lentils, kebab, sambosa and more.
New local performers
While the festival once brought in national acts, in recent years it has booked all local entertainment. This year’s diverse list of newcomers includes Randin Graves performing Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo music.
Others: Tekla Klebetnica, Polish folk music; Ballet Folklorico ECK, Mexican dance by performers ages 4 to 17; Sonali Loomba & Bollywood Dance Company, folk dance styles from north, west and south India; Utah Punjabi Arts Academy, folk dances from India’s northern state of Punjab; and Bomba Marile, Puerto Rican music and dance.
“We have a balance of legacy artists as well as incorporating new artists to keep it fresh and vibrant,” said Thurber.
Living Traditions Festival: By the numbers
Performing Groups: 88
Food Vendors: 22
Estimated attendance: 30,000
Number of Years: 34
New craft demonstrations
Artists show traditional techniques while creating works on-site at the festival, often sharing the history of an art form and how they became interested in it. Luis Calderon, one of this year’s new demonstrators, is a fifth-generation woodcarver from Ecuador. He creates traditional toys and carves miniatures using rainforest tagua nuts.
Other newcomers will demonstrate Indian henna, Northern Ute arts, Peruvian weaving, Puerto Rican Vejigante masks and crafts and jewelry from Turkmenistan.
The tradition of bringing students to the festival earlier on Friday, before the official opening to the public, will continue, Thurber said, and there will be an increased emphasis on children’s activities, with six hands-on crafts. The Utah Bocce Association will have bocce ball courts available for anyone who wants to participate in the ancient game.
Living Traditions Festival
The festival celebrates Utah’s cultural diversity through performance, crafts and foods. Learn more at livingtraditionsfestival.com.
Where • Library Square, 420 South 200 East, Salt Lake City
When • Friday, May 17, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, May 18, noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday, May 19, noon to 7 p.m.
Admission • Free
Beer and wine • Available for purchase for patrons 21 and older near the west festival stage, adjacent to the soft drink sales booth.
Pets • Not allowed, except for service animals
Smoking • Not permitted on festival grounds
Coverage of downtown Salt Lake City arts groups is supported by a grant from The Blocks, a cultural initiative of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.