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Highly anticipated Kennedy Center expansion kicks off this weekend with free 16-day festival

The celebration of the new REACH Center will feature 500 free performances, events and hands-on activities.

WASHINGTON — The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts is a historic D.C. institution that has a long history of giving back to the arts, and this weekend is no exception. 

Starting Saturday, Sep. 7 with a parade, the brand new arts facilities will be open to the public. To celebrate the first major expansion of the nation's cultural center, the Center is throwing a 16-day festival packed with everything from Beyoncé choreography classes to stand-up and live music.

And the best part: it's free.

More than 1,000 artists from a variety of arts backgrounds are expected to perform during the 16-day jamboree. Some national headliners include Arrested Development, De La Soul, Kronos Quartet and Thievery Corporation.

For those interested in enhancing their own artistic prowess, classes lead by industry professionals will be available throughout the entire festival. Courses range from beat-boxing and yoga to ballet and storytelling, and those of all skill level and ages can participate.

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Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said the unique design of the new addition, which sprawls over 130,000 square feet, is aimed at accommodating artists and encouraging more public immersion into the arts.

"The REACH’s unique design will inspire a wide population to share and own their arts experiences," Rutter said. "Building on the Kennedy Center’s rich ongoing programming portfolio to reflect the art of our entire nation, the Opening Festival celebrates all art forms and encourages participation, immersion, learning, and discovery."

While the event itself is free, timed-entry passes are required and going quickly. Timed-entry passes only grant access to the campus itself -- courses are on a first come, first serve basis and some may require additional registration once you are inside. The REACH Center recommends those looking to participate to show up 30 minutes prior to their desired class.

Beyond classes, the new arts education platform will feature a ton of other fun activities like a virtual reality lounge, food trucks, large-scale sculptures and family-friendly play spaces.

To grab passes and for more information, check out a full schedule on the Kennedy Center's website.

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