Last year I discovered the existence of the Andong Mask Festival, but was too lazy to go to it. Instead I spent my fall researching all the different sorts of fall activities I would do my second year in South Korea. I am very glad I did go to this festival, because it is large and interesting, as are most Korean festivals.
The main festival site was located in town a short bus ride (or taxi ride) away from the Andong train station or the Andong bus station. If you take the bus directly from the train or bus station, walk down the main street (left from the train station or right from the bus station) to the bus stop (don’t cross the street like you would if you were going to Hahoe Maeul Folk Village first). However during the festival, the same bus (#46) will connect the Hahoe Maeul Folk Village, the bus and train stations and the festival site on an hourly basis.
There were multiple things to do on site. There was a theater to watch Korean mask dances or foreign mask dances throughout the day. There were stages for different musical concerts. There were different booths for foods and art products. There were plenty of toys and games for children to play, since most Korean festivals are very much family friendly and offer activities and experiences for the whole family or even just individuals like myself. There were even strange things like these robot rickshaws you can ride (I admit that when I first saw them, I thought they were children in costume pulling these rickshaws).
There were also exhibits of different masks around the world, since this was not just a Korean mask festival, but it incorporated mask traditions from different countries.
While I was there, I took in a mask dance performance. There were different performances of both Korean and foreign mask dances at regular intervals throughout the day, and I chose to watch the Eunyul MaskDance. Each performance was only 7,000 won (less than $7 USD) for an hour long show. All these different dances had different tableau performances, though I will admit I wasn’t exactly sure what the story was. I just enjoyed the traditional folk music and seeing different folk traditions play out before my eyes.
And like most fun Korean festivals, there were experience booths to make your own mask.
You picked a booth that had the type of mask you are interested in making (there are multiple booths with different sorts of masks depending on your interests). Making your own mask only cost 5,000 won. You picked a mask and you were given a craft table and a mask decorating kit. The kit consisted of colored granular glue (white, black, red, yellow and blue). You can mix and match the colors to make whatever sort of color you want and you can decorate your mask in whatever design you want. I chose my particular mask, because it reminded me of a butterfly. I adore the color purple, so I used up all my red and blue to make the purple outline. I ultimately ended up using my university alma mater’s colors, the University of Washington purple and gold (or yellow in this case). As I said, I was going for a beautiful butterfly, but in the end it looked more like a Mexican wrestling mask. But it’s my creation and I love it anyway.
If you are curious about masks, mask dances, the Andong Hahoe Maeul Folk Village, or just want to enjoy a pleasurable afternoon at a traditional Korean festival, I highly recommend the Andong Mask Festival. The festival lasts two weeks every year, usually the last weekend of September and the first weekend of October. Andong is an easy day trip from Seoul, and you can easily take the bus or the train to and from the festival.