International Highland Folklore Festival

Men wearing highland regional costumes walking while holding a violin and a viola, followed by two horses.
August in Podhale is a joyful time, filled with songs, dancing and discussions about folklore and traditions – all thanks to the Sabałowe Bajanie contest in Bukowina Tatrzańska, while Zakopane welcomes visitors with the International Highland Folklore Festival.

The Festival is an event with a tradition spanning more than 50 years, bringing together people from all around Poland, as well as all over the world. Folk groups from the mountainous regions of Asia, Africa and South America get together in Zakopane to showcase and share what they have been nurturing for generations - folklore and tradition. The first Festival took place in 1968 at the behest of Krystyna Słobodzińska – the founder of the Festival of Highland Regional Bands in Zakopane. Even the first edition saw several bands and ensembles from abroad. The main objectives of the International Highland Folklore Festival concern showcasing the traditions, rituals, dances and music of the inhabitants of highlands in Poland and abroad, as well as to preserve their authenticity and safekeep them for future generations. This is one of the highlights of the city of Zakopane and a source of pride.

Over the past 50 years, nearly 600 ensembles from dozens of countries and more than 200 Polish groups have participated in the Festival, competing for the Gold, Silver and Bronze Highlander Axes, awarded in three categories: Authenticity, Artistic Value and Style. The first edition had only one award – the Golden Highlander Axe – and no categories whatsoever. The organisers quickly noticed differences between the bands and realised that awarding just a single prize was challenging and hardly fair. The entire event takes place on the main street of the Tatra Mountains – Krupówki Street – and around the festival tent in Dolna Równia Krupowa.

The festival runs for over a week. Its programme encompasses performances of regional bands from around the world, as well as numerous accompanying events and attractions, including the Podhale Driving Championships, a parade along the streets of Zakopane, Podhale Sheepdog Exhibition, National Festival, Folk Art and Craft Fair, Competition of Bands, folk art workshops and activities for children.

The power of the festival lies in strengthening bonds and cultivating the most valuable elements of culture which are present in the Podhale highlanders. It is also an opportunity to get together and spend time in the festival village with hot tea and regional music. The inhabitants of Podhale get the opportunity to forget about the everyday hustle and bustle, celebrating the Festival in their own way.



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