Music festivals might not be inherently geeky. I get that. Think of big, multiday festivals and you might envision something like Coachella, Bonnaroo, or Burning Man, right?
Well, this weekend in Washington, DC, the Landmark Music Festival debuts with an impressive lineup and an even more impressive cause: the Trust for the National Mall. The primary purpose of this festival is to repair the crumbling pathways, polluted waters, and weed-infested swaths of dirt that have come to be the norm around some of our country’s most famous monuments and landmarks.
Tourists to the National Mall (the most visited national park in the country, which sees 29 million annual visitors) often imagine the space to be as they see it in movies – acres and acres of pristine grounds dotted with perfectly polished granite and marble memorials.
And truthfully, once they’re here, they’re often so mesmerized by the famous structures that they fail to see the details. I understand that. Seeing the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, or Vietnam Memorial in person (especially for the first time) is fairly awe-inspiring, and they really are gorgeous.
As a local, though, I can tell you that this part of the city, though beautiful, is falling apart. It’s a far cry from the ideal presented by Hollywood. The monuments themselves aren’t exactly in danger of toppling or turning to dust, but the landscaping and hardscaping that surround the National Mall’s 13 memorials and monuments have become kind of pathetic. It’s a sad reality.
A perfect example? In April of 2014, a 3′ x 5′ chunk of limestone fell from the ceiling of the Jefferson Memorial. It still hasn’t been replaced.
For years, the heart of the National Mall has looked like this:
And recently, it’s looked even worse, as bulldozers have torn up the grass in an ongoing turf restoration project that has all but closed off the grassy part of the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.
It’s almost literally been loved to death.
The Landmark Music Festival, then, is intended to serve as a platform to educate a new generation of Americans about the values, ideals, and history of America’s “Front Yard” while also providing vital funds to meet the hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance backlog currently facing the National Mall.
I know what you’re thinking. The National Mall is a national park and part of the National Park Service, which is in turn part of the Department of the Interior. Doesn’t it benefit from federal funds? Yes. But the National Park Service is facing a $11.49 billion repair and maintenance backlog for all national parks and an estimated $852 million for the National Mall alone. The federally approved budget can only go so far. It’s basically enough to keep the lights on and the doors open.
The Trust for the National Mall is the official non-profit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to restoring and improving the National Mall. It’s been 30 years since the last major renovation of the National Mall (following the bicentennial in 1976), and seeing as how next year is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service…now seems like a good time to give it some love.
This weekend, the first-ever Landmark Music Festival features an impressive lineup of more than 40 acts that will play on five stages in West Potomac Park (which borders the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials).
Tickets are still available here, and the weather looks like it’s going to be spectacular. Can’t make it to DC this weekend? You can still experience the festival online. Yahoo will exclusively live stream select acts on both Saturday and Sunday. The Landmark Live Stream can be watched on the Landmark homepage, Live Nation Channel on Yahoo, or through the Yahoo Screen mobile app (iOS and Android) and connected devices (Apple TV, Roku, Xbox). The full schedule can be found here.
Want to help raise awareness? On the Landmark Campaign’s website, you’ll find a “virtual National Mall,” where you can spread the word by taking a few minutes to build and share a virtual monument for someone who’s made a difference in your life. Let the world know why that person deserves his or her own monument on the National Mall!
Want to contribute financially? Visit www.nationalmall.org/give to donate.
America’s national parks are one of her greatest treasures. As Americans, we love them. There’s no denying that. But we abuse them. We take them for granted. And we can do better. Let’s give back, protect, and preserve these amazing places and structures for generations to come.