Festival Season

Get Ready for the 47th Annual Northwest Folklife

This weekend the year’s freest festival takes over Seattle Center.

By Stefan Milne May 22, 2018

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While other big festivals can sometimes feel like a chance to show off your hat and headband collection (looking at you, Sasquatch), Folklife is both significant—over 5,200 performers, 26 stages, and up to 250,000 attendees—and mellow. It's ruling ethos seems to be, Come as you are, whoever you are.

There was a lot of talk of 2017 being the last Northwest Folklife Festival, because it has remained free and open to everyone (though they ask for a $10 donation). But that talk got people donating, so Folklife is back for at least another year.

As usual, your best bet here is likely to head to the festival and eat food and wander—maybe join a dance circle on a lawn, maybe hear some Balkan roots music, or South Indian Carnatic classical violinist Maestro Ganesh Rajagopalan. Consider it a free opportunity to explore the huge range of cultures that make the Northwest what it is.

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But each year, Folklife also chooses a cultural focus and this time around that’s Echoes of Aztlán and Beyond: Mexican American and Chicana/o Roots in the Northwest. Events will continue through the year but they culminate Sunday at 3pm during a three-hour folkloric dance showcase at McCaw Hall, which includes seven different dance groups. And at noon on Sunday, Felipe Hernandez—who recently won a James Beard award for his Eastern Washington tamale restaurant—demonstrates how to make asparagus tamales.

Folklife runs May 25–28 from 11am to 10pm (9pm on Monday), and you can look at the complete program guide here, or check out a more curated list here.

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