In 1973, the Smithsonian Institution began preparing its multi-year commemoration of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976. Beginning with this year's Festival, the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior became co-sponsor of the Festival with the Smithsonian, and it was moved to the western part of the National Mall alongside the Reflecting Pool, between 17th and 23rd Streets, and between Constitution Avenue N.W. and Independence Avenue S.W. (see site plan
). As explained by Secretary S. Dillon Ripley, "Themes and presentations for this Festival are a trial run for the themes around which our own celebration of America's 200th birthday will be organized."
The 1973 Festival ran from June 30 to July 8 and included four programs that initiated the Bicentennial preparations: Regional America featured the Commonwealth of Kentucky; Native Americans featured Northern Plains tribes; Working Americans featured the building trades; and Old Ways in the New World was inaugurated with two programs: Tribute to the Tamburashi presented Yugoslavian and Yugoslavian American traditions, and British Isles Music, Song, and Dance Traditions included participants from England, Scotland, Ireland and the U.S. Of these programs, Native Americans and Working Americans extended throughout the nine-day Festival, with the British Isles program running the first four days, the Tamburashi program running the first five days, and Kentucky featured for the last five days. During the Festival, evening concerts were presented on a stage at the base of the Lincoln Memorial; documentation of those concerts is found within each of the relevant programs whose musicians were featured.
The 1973 Festival was co-organized by the Smithsonian Institution, Division of Performing Arts (James R. Morris, Director; Richard Lusher, Deputy Director) and the National Park Service (Ronald H. Walker, Director). Ralph Rinzler was Director of Folklife Programs, with Gerald L. Davis serving as Associate Director and Kenneth S. Goldstein as Special Assistant to the Secretary on Folklore and Folklife.
The 1973 Program Book
provided information on all of the programs, including a schedule and participant lists.