Zakopane, August every year.

THE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF MOUNTAIN FOLKLORE appeared in the cultural calendar in the mountain resort of Zakopane in 1968. It was created by Krystyna Slobodzinska, who had previously founded Zakopane’s FESTIWAL ZESPOLOW REGIONALNYCH ZIEM GORSKICH / FESTIVAL OF MOUNTAIN REGION ENSEMBLES, which had been part of the JESIEN TATRZANSKA / TATRA AUTUMN since 1964. The primary aim of the INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF MOUNTAIN FOLKLORE is to present the music, songs, dances, rituals and customs of mountain peoples from all parts of the world. The festival has helped turn Zakopane into a gathering point for folk ensembles from the mountainous regions of Europe, Africa, both Americas and Asia. During the festival the resort becomes a meeting place for different, and often distant, cultures, traditions and nations. Thus far in its history, this oldest and largest of Poland’s folk culture festivals has hosted over five hundred mountain musical and dance ensembles from almost sixty countries on five continents. The folk ensembles and groups that come to Zakopane compete for awards that are valued around the world. Gold, Silver and Bronze Ciupagas (a decorative walking stick/axe) are awarded in three categories: traditional performance, artistically developed performance and stylized performance. The basic criterion for qualification into one of the competition categories is the degree to which a given ensemble has prepared the folk traditions of the region it represents for public presentation.

The festival is a holiday of mountain culture during which Zakopane hosts crowds of people in beautiful, colorful costumes; folk artists set up their booths along Krupowki – the main street of the capital of the Tatras – and around the festival tent, which is set up each year on the Dolna Rownia Krupowa (a plain in the valley) and serves as the venue for festival concerts. Artisans frequently sculpt, paint and make cutouts at their booths, while the crowds that gather take advantage of stands serving regional dishes. Each year the festival opens with a colorful parade involving all the festival’s participants. The parade concludes with a grand Inaugural Concert. A number of special festival events are organized each year, among them numerous concerts, presentations, contests, markets, visits to the studios of Zakopane artists and demonstrations of mountain dances. Highlights of the program include a staging of a traditional Highlander wedding, music and singing contests, the Podhale Region Horse and Wagon Championships, and parades and showings of Podhale Sheepdogs.

During this year’s edition of the INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF MOUNTAIN FOLKLORE in Zakopane, native mountain folk cultures will be presented by ensembles from Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey and Venezuela. A number of interesting feature events have been planned. These include an anniversary concert by the “Krywan” ensemble (20 August, 2004, 7:00 p.m.), a series of events titled “Zakopane zaprasza” / “An Invitation to Zakopane” (21 August, 2004, 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.), and an anniversary concert titled “Namyslowski z goralami” / “Namyslowski and Highlanders” (28 August, 2004, 8:00 p.m.).

The INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF MOUNTAIN FOLKLORE in Zakopane is affiliated with the International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Art (CIOFF). Classified as a first category festival, it is among the top events supported by this prestigious international organization.