Northwest Folklife Festival is the annual free Memorial Day weekend celebration of ethnic, folk, and traditional arts. The long holiday weekend festival includes four days of jam-packed excitement all day and into the night. The annual Festival includes thousands of participants, hundreds of volunteers, plus food and craft vendors, that attract over a quarter-million attendees from all over the world. It is Seattle’s unofficial leap into summer.
The Memorial Day festival is presented by Northwest Folklife, a heritage organization that celebrates the diverse tapestry of arts, cultures, and traditions emanating from a global Pacific Northwest. Since 1971, NW Folklife’s work has been rooted in the shared humanity of connection and creative expression, driven by intergenerational, intercultural experiences. The festival is a collaboration with more than 100 Community Coordinators, including artists, educators, tradition bearers, and cultural leaders throughout the region.
Nonprofit NW Folklife Festival produces the signature Memorial Day Weekend event along with other programming throughout the year in partnership with youth and community organizations.
How to support Northwest Folklife
Entry to the Folklife Festival is free. However, in order to keep the admission free for future generations, Northwest Folklife depends on donations to meet operating expenses, produce the annual festival, and maintain year-round programs and events. It’s not easy to sustain, and they need your support. There are several other ways you can contribute:
- Donate admission at the Memorial Day Festival. The suggestion amount is $20, but any amount is gratefully appreciated.
- Become a regular donor to the non-profit organization through contributions or sponsorship.
- Volunteer to help at Folklife events.
- Attend a benefit throughout the year to support Folklife programs.
- Shop on AmazonSmile and select Northwest Folklife as the nonprofit of your choice.
More info: Support Northwest Folklife (nwfolklife.org)
About the Memorial Day Weekend Festival
Founded in 1972, the Memorial Day Weekend Folklife Festival is the place to learn, to dance, to play, to try something new, and to discover arts and cultures. The festival is more than a celebration of the diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Folklife is a chance to engage directly with the many communities that make up our region. All of the Festival’s artists donate their performances in order to share their cultural heritage, arts, and traditions.
Artists from the Pacific Northwest along with special guests from around the world create a cultural extravaganza. You can experience music and dance, visual arts exhibits, demonstrations of traditional arts, hands-on children’s activities, dance and music workshops, crafts, food, imported goods, and more. From yodeling to beatboxing, square dancing to Bollywood, the Northwest Folklife Festival celebrates the global traditions of local, independent artists.
Admission is free!. However, you may want to bring money for food, beverages, crafts, or merchandise to support festival participants. Or stay frugal, pack a lunch, and plan to just take in the sights and sounds—there’s plenty to see and do. You can spend many hours wandering vendor booths featuring handmade goods from Northwest craft makers, as well as imported crafts from around the world, including artwork, dishware, musical instruments, some hard-to-find items, and more.
Donations are strongly encouraged. Northwest Folklife depends on donations from generous individuals, as well as sponsors, foundations, government programs, and corporate partners. The Folklife Festival is presented without admission charge, to remove economic barriers and create the most inclusive, wide-reaching arts experience for everyone.
Volunteers are an essential part of the Northwest Folklife Festival and receive discounted merchandise and other perks. Volunteer as an individual or as part of your community or business organization. The application process closes in early May.
2024 Northwest Folklife Festival
Folklife is one of the largest arts and culture festivals of its kind—a multi-day, community-powered event that celebrates all forms of artistic and cultural expression. Come to the Folklike Festival to discover arts, foods, and traditions that thrive in the Puget Sound region. You are likely to hear new kinds of music, discover new foods, and experience fresh perspectives from diverse cultures.
The 2024 Cultural Focus is Meraki. Meraki marks the 3rd chapter of Folklife’s 5-year Cultural Focus storyline. Meraki derives from the Greek language and means doing something with passion, soul, and love. In 2022, the first in-person festival after the pandemic, Metamorphosis asked that we accept and welcome change and transformation as a natural part of our everyday folk lives. In 2023, Lagom compelled us to accept change as part of a journey towards finding a new balance within ourselves, our communities, and our larger ecosystem. From that place of balance, Meraki urges us to seek that which gives us joy, so that whatever we put our minds to can be approached and accomplished with a sense of pride, soulfulness, and discipline.
When: Memorial Day Weekend, Friday-Monday. May 24-27, 2024. Rain or shine.
Hours: Festival Hours: 11AM – 10PM Friday – Sunday, 11AM-9PM Monday.
Admission: FREE. Yep. Not a type. Free. Suggested donation: $20/day.
Where: Seattle Center campus. The official address is 305 Harrison St, Seattle 98109. But there are many entrances to the 74-acre arts and cultural center.
Parking and Transportation:
- Many paid lots are within a few blocks of Seattle Center. However, parking lots fill up by midday and can have high rates.
- It is recommended to take the bus or ride your bike.
- Fifteen Metro bus routes serve Seattle Center from around the region.
- You can also take the bus directly to Seattle Center, or to downtown Seattle and then take the Monorail from Westlake Center Mall (5th and Pine St) into Seattle Center.
- Bike racks are located at all of Seattle Center campus entrances.
- More info: Getting to Seattle Center (seattlecenter.com)
Calendar of Memorial Day Weekend events
Listed below are all events on our calendar over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Friday, May 24, 2024
Saturday, May 25, 2024
Sunday, May 26, 2024
Monday, May 27, 2024
But wait! There’s more!
- Our big list of music festivals in Washington State (greaterseattleonthecheap.com)
- Our big list of live music gigs & concerts (greaterseattleonthecheap.com)
- Free outdoor summer music concerts (greaterseattleonthecheap.com)