While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Art Leatherwood

Texas Folklife Festival
The Texas Folklife Festival, which celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 2011, honors the diverse cultural heritage of Texas through music, dance, crafts, demonstrations of skills, historical exhibits, and a bounty of ethnic food. Photograph by Gary S. Hickinbotham.

TEXAS FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL. The Texas Folklife Festival grew out of ideas formed in 1968, when the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures took part in the Smithsonian Institution's National Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Inspired by the success of the national event, the Institute of Texan Cultures began planning a Texas festival.

Under the leadership of the exhibits director, O. T. Baker, the country's first statewide folklife festival was held September 7–10, 1972, as an extension of the educational programs of the Institute of Texan Cultures. A major thrust was to preserve and display the ethnic traditions and pioneer skills that had helped to form the Lone Star State. Essential initial funding was provided by the Moody Foundation of Galveston, the Houston Endowment, and the Ewing Halsell Foundation of San Antonio. Hundreds of individuals, as well as various fraternal, ethnic, social, religious, professional, commercial, and industrial organizations, provided goods, services, and equipment. The San Antonio Hotel Association and the H. B. Zachry Company, general contractors, provided other essential services.

Since the first year the festival has been entirely self-supporting. In addition, food and beverage sales have provided millions of dollars to participating groups to help sustain their ethnic and cultural programs. The Texas Folklife Festival has been held every year since 1972 on the Institute of Texan Cultures grounds at the HemisFair '68 plaza in San Antonio. Paid admissions that first year totaled $63,565, and many more were admitted free the first two nights because some of the food booths ran short of food. Some 2,000 participants and staff provided entertainment, demonstrated skills, served food, played music, or worked in other program areas.

In 1973 the festival was caught in the middle of Hurricane Delia, and after the first three years the festival was moved to early August to avoid the September rains. Claudia Ball took over from O. T. Baker as festival director in 1976 and served in that capacity through 1980. Jo Ann Andera became festival director in 1981 and continued to serve through 2015.

Beginning in the year 2000, the festival was moved from August to June to avoid the hottest part of the summer. In the years when bad weather has interfered, the activities have simply moved onto the covered veranda surrounding the institute building. In 2011 the festival, a three-day event that showcased the food, music, crafts, and dance of some forty cultures, celebrated its fortieth anniversary. By 2014 the festival was held over two days.


The Texas Folklife Festival, UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (http://www.texancultures.com/festivals_events/texas_folklife_2016/), accessed August 27, 2015. Courtney Burkholder, “Hats (and Sombreros) Off to Jo Ann Andera: The Texas Folklife Festival director learned cultural diversity firsthand,” San Antonio Woman (http://sawoman.com/categories/mayjune-2011/hats-and-sombreros-jo-ann-andera ), accessed November 27, 2011. San Antonio Express-News, June 13, 2011. Texas Folklife Festival, September 7–10, 1972 (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1972).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Art Leatherwood, "TEXAS FOLKLIFE FESTIVAL," accessed June 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lkt07.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on September 14, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...