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, with four days of jam-packed excitement all day and into the night.
About Northwest Folklife
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.
Northwest Folklife depends on donations from generous individuals, foundations, government, and corporate partners in order to meet operating expenses.
More info: Northwest Folklife (nwfolklife.org)
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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 arts and traditions.
Artists from the Pacific Northwest along with special guests from around the world create an 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.
You may want to bring money for food and beverages, crafts, or other merchandise on sale during the festival to support 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 the merchandise booths, featuring handmade goods from Northwest craft makers, as well as booths with imported crafts from around the world, including arts & crafts, dishware, musical instruments, and some hard-to-find items.
Families with children won’t want to miss Discovery Zone in the Next 50 Pavilion with dozens of craft booths, open daily from 11:00 am–5:00 pm.
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.
When: Memorial Day Weekend, Friday-Monday. Rain or shine.
Hours: Festival programming begins at 11am and concludes at 10pm from Friday until Sunday and until 9pm on Monday. Food vendor hours may vary.
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.
- 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.
- For bicyclists, there will be a large bike corral located at the Harrison Street entrance on 5th Avenue North.
2021 Folklife Festival Seattle
- Dates: May 28-31, 2021
- Where: Online on nwfolklife.org, Facebook, and Twitch
- More info: Memorial Weekend Festival | Northwest Folklife (nwfolklife.org)
Uh, is the Folklife Festival really free?
Entry to the Folklife Festival is free. However, in order to keep the admission free for future generations, Northwest Folklife accepts donations of any amount.
Folklife depends on donations from generous individuals, foundations, government, and corporate partners in order 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.
Besides donating admission, there are several other ways you can contribute:
- Become 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)
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