Northwest Folklife Festival is the annual free Memorial Day weekend celebration of ethnic, folk, and traditional arts. Folklife is Seattle’s unofficial leap into summer. 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.
The Northwest Folklife Festival is one of the largest of its kind—a multi-day, community-powered event that celebrates all forms of 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 Memorial Day Weekend festival is presented by Northwest Folklife, a year-around non-profit arts organization that celebrates multigenerational arts, cultures, and traditions of a global Pacific Northwest. The non-profit organization produces the Northwest Folklife Festival along with other programs and events throughout the year in partnership with other youth and community organizations.
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 exuberant tradition of sharing and participation at the Folklife Festival encourages exploration and learning between participants and public alike. The goal is to inspire celebration of one another and our big neighborhood.
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.
Although admission is free, 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 arts & crafts, dishware, musical instruments, and some hard-to-find items.
Volunteers are an essential part of the Northwest Folklife Festival and receive discounted merchandise and other perks. The application process closes in early May. However, feel free to visit the Volunteer Registration area in the Next 50 Pavilion (next to the Monorail) during the Festival to see what shifts might still be open.
In keeping a commitment to remove any economic barriers and ensure that everyone can experience and share in cultural traditions, the annual Northwest Folklife is presented without admission charge, creating the most inclusive, wide-reaching arts experience. However, donations are strongly encouraged.
Northwest Folklife depends on donations from generous individuals, as well as sponsors, foundations, government programs, and corporate partners in order to meet operating expenses.
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)
2023 Northwest Folklife Festival
The 2023 Folklife Festival cultural Focus is “Lagom”. This Scandinavian term speaks to the notions of balance, meaning “Not too much, not too little, but just right!” Everyone and everything can have a different Lagom. Different experiences and different environments inform different paths, processes, and resources to determine that balance. Balance is how we survive!
When: Memorial Day Weekend, Friday-Monday. May 26-29, 2023. Rain or shine.
Hours: Festival Hours: 11AM – 10PM Friday – Sunday, 11AM-9PM Monday.
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.
Admission: FREE. Yep. Suggested donation: $20/day.
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 26, 2023
Saturday, May 27, 2023
Sunday, May 28, 2023
Monday, May 29, 2023