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.
Artists from the Pacific Northwest along with special guests from around the world create an ethnic extravaganza. The artists and guests present 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.
The exuberant tradition of sharing and participation at Folklife encourages exploration and learning between participants and public alike.
About the 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 goal is to inspire celebration of one another and our big neighborhood.
The Festival draws from hundreds of cultural communities working in collaboration with the Northwest Folklife organization year-round. From yodeling to beatboxing, square dancing to Bollywood, the Northwest Folklife Festival celebrates the global traditions of local, independent artists.
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.
Folklife Festival brings together an estimated 250,000 visitors, 1,000 volunteers and more than 7,000 musicians, dancers, tradition bearers and visual artists who contribute their time, talent, and energy.
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.
About Northwest Folklife
Northwest Folklife is s a year-around non-profit arts organization that celebrates multigenerational arts, cultures, and traditions of a global Pacific Northwest.
It produces the Northwest Folklife Festival, along with curated performances, panels, workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations, and educational materials in partnership with youth organizations and community partners. A couple of these initiatives are listed below.
- Our Big Neighborhood with Seattle Center, a multicultural, intergenerational program that fosters the sharing of traditional and evolving cultures among people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
- Crossroads Cultural Arts Series, a sequence of family-friendly cultural arts performances at Crossroads Mall’s Market Stage in Bellevue that highlights different cultures or global regions through performances by local artists and musicians.
- Youth residency projects, which bring together youth who collaborate on various forms of artistic expression and to foster their growth as agents of change.
Northwest Folklife depends on donations from generous individuals, foundations, government, and corporate partners in order to meet operating expenses.
Is the Folklife Festival really free?
Entry to the festival is free as are performances.
However, in order to keep the Festival admission free for future generations, Northwest Folklife accepts donations of any amount. Suggested donation is $10 per person per day (or $20 for family/groups).
You can also become a Friend of Folklife with a donation of $50 or more and enjoy exclusive donor benefits. Read about all the Ways to Give to Northwest Folklife.
You may also want to bring money for food, the beer garden, crafts or other merchandise for sale. 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.
Folklife Festival Seattle
Dates: 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.
Schedule: http://www.nwfolklife.org/festival-schedule/ (scroll down on the website, all four days are displayed).
Seattle, WA 98109