Contra Dancing 2

What do you love most about the Northwest Folklife Festival?

Contra Dancing 2Northwest Folklife has been going strong for 44 years, and it is dance community powered.

We send MANY THANKS to all of the folk dance communities that recently came together in support of Northwest Folklife. It was exciting to see four ‘Nights for Folklife’ events on the calendar in March.

Northwest folk dance communities have long been involved in the Festival’s roots as a participatory multi-cultural experience. I recently met Judy, a veteran folk dancer, who explained, “my husband and I caught the folk dance bug at Folklife, and we travelled the world as a result.” Since the days of glamour and leg room in jet travel, the Folklife Festival has been the place folks can discover and practice all kinds of international folk dance hailing from the Balkans, English Countryside, France, Greece, Hungary, Scotland, and Turkey, and throughout the world. Sounds like the Northwest Folklife Festival did its part to stimulate Pacific Northwesterners’ curiosity about diverse cultures and world travel.

Thank You to the folk dancers who donated, to the event coordinators and to all who made in-kind donations. Here is but a partial list:

Laurie Andres
Kathy “I dance; therefore, I am.” Bruni
Cascade Promenade
Jean Causey
Cedar Valley Grange
Folk Voice Band
Art Hare
Lake City Contra Marathon
Lake City Contra/Old Time Country Dance
Sherry Nevins
Northwest Folk Dancers, Inc.
Doug Plummer
Portland Roadhouse Dance
Kathy Sandstrom
Seattle English Country Dance
Skagit-Anacortes Folk Dancers
Skandia Folk Dance Society
Karen Shaw
Sno-King International Folk Dancers
Sue Songer
Swedish Club
Terry Wergeland
Cathie Whitesides

Interested in taking up folk dancing? Visit Seattle Dance  for extensive information on clubs and dances and visit Northwest Folklife’s Community Calendar, too.

Volunteer at Northwest Folklife

It’s National Volunteer Week

As we are all gearing up for the festival we would like to take a moment to thank all of our amazing volunteers, past and present for making Folklife the incredible festival it is year after year.

On our Volunteer Application, we ask why you want to Volunteer at Folklife. The responses we get are so thoughtful, heartfelt and illustrate dedication our volunteers have for the festival and the community it creates.

Here are a few of our Favorites:

“Best volunteer event in Seattle. Love interacting with the other volunteers and being a part of a great community event.” Carolyn Brenner, volunteer of 33 years 

“These are my people, and this is my history.” Elke Schoen, volunteer of 30+ years

“My family has been part of this festival for my entire life, I deeply value what this festival means to our community. I am glad to be a part of it!” Adrian Braxton, volunteer of 5 years

Many of our volunteers have been a part of our organization for 20, 30, even 40 years and we are proud to have such dedicated individuals be a part of what we do. Whether you help us with preparation in the office, greet Festival participants, assist with registration or deliver coffee to vendors, you are a crucial part of our organization and are greatly treasured. Thank you.

Northwest Folklife honors volunteers through our Appreciation Program which takes place on Monday May 25th in the Volunteer Registration room.

Volunteers are encouraged to stop by on Monday and grab a gift and see if they have won a prize through the Volunteer Raffle!

If you are interested in volunteering but have not filled out an application- it’s not too late! Email for more information.

Seattle Youth Poet Laureate 1

Seattle Youth Poet Laureate

Seattle PoetThis year at Folklife we are excited to announce that the City of Seattle is holding its inaugural Youth Poet Laureate Program. The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate aims to identify and honor local young writers and poets who are not only talented literary artists, but demonstrate a commitment to “civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, human relations, diversity and education across Seattle.”

Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program (SAL/WITS) and Urban Word NYC have joined together to create the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program, supported locally and nationally by Northwest Folklife, Penmanship Books, and the Academy of American Poets.

Applications are currently being accepted from writers ages 14-19. The top eight finalists will perform during the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Commencement Performance, which will be held during the 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival, Saturday May 23 at 1:00 p.m. in the Cornish Playhouse. At the performance, a panel of four judges will decide the winner. Along with being dubbed the 2015 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate, the winner will receive a book deal to publish their first book of poems and be able to travel across the city on a book tour.

The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate will attend events throughout the year, providing a platform to share their voice with the City of Seattle. The ideal candidate will be someone with not only great leadership skills, but a strong love for Seattle as well. Winning this title means that you will represent the City of Seattle and spread support for arts programs for youth throughout the community.

If this sounds like you, submit an application! Details can be found online here.

The deadline for submissions is April 24, 2015. The 2015 Northwest Folklife Festival will be held May 22-25, at the Seattle Center. The Cornish Playhouse is located at 201 Mercer St., Seattle, WA 98109.

Folklife 2014 - Sunday

Summertime Fun with Folklife!

The Northwest Folklife Festival comes around but once a year, but we’re here year round! Here’s a few events just around the corner!

Join us at Crossroads Mall

Join us Saturday, July 19th at Crossroads Mall in Bellevue for an evening of dancing through Asia. Learn hand movements from instructor Meloody Xie. This is a FREE event starting at 6:30PM – 8:30PM.

Folklife is thrilled to be p?format=400wartnering with the Kirkland Summerfest, August 8-10 to present some of your favorite Folklife performers on their Community Stage! Summerfest is Kirkland’s largest festival featuring three days of art and music on the waterfront and throughout downtown. Don’t miss 3 days of visual and performing arts, over 50 performances, spectator sports, family rides, and entertainment, over 150 vendors and food trucks on the streets of downtown. Stay tuned for our full line up and more details!

Folklife was streaming live from many of our stages from the Festival all weekend! Miss a show? Click here to see if it’s there, and listen to many of the hundreds of recordings from this remarkable Festival!Fri_Multigenerations2The Northwest Folklife Festival comes around but once a year, but we’re here year round! Keep up with us on Facebook – we’ll be sharing fun events around town, Folklife news, do a few fun giveaways, and so much more. Plus, we want to hear about the cultural entertainment you love in the Pacific Northwest. Facebook is the perfect place to share.

scf_logo_Starburst_TransFolklife is hard at work planning our first Children’s Festival! The Seattle Children’s Festival will be a free one-day festival located on the Seattle Center Grounds on October 12, 2014. No admission charge, thanks to your donations and community support! By “Celebrating Our Big Neighborhood,” the Festival will bring together local communities that showcase and celebrate families of the Northwest. Programming will include music and dance performances and interactive workshops from around the world as well as a Hands-on Activity Area.


Indian Community Profiles: Meet your Neighbors!

The 2014 Northwest Folklife Festival is highlighting four members of the Indian community in part of our Cultural Focus program: Ramesh Gangolli, Dr. Lakshmi Gaur, Runika Nandkumar, Dr. Vijaya Rao and Aditya Uppala. From youth to matured, these representatives support and inherit the Indian community in their community of the Northwest as they continue to incorporate their traditions and values into neighborhoods.

Runika NandkumarRunika Nandkumar

Runika Nandkumar is a wife, mother, craft-maker and volunteer for several different non-profit organizations in the Northwest. She graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi, India and specializes in textile design. Runika is a recent immigrant to Seattle’s Indian community. Unlike immigrants from the 60s, 70s and 80s who faced struggles with a new culture, inability to drive, as well as a lack of family and friends, recent immigrants come equipped with awareness and knowledge partly due to the internet. This year, Runika Nandkumar is showcasing talented artists at Folklife as part of the Indya Rang Bazaar as Sampada and demonstrating unique forms of artistic creation.

 1.    When did you move to the Northwest? 

It was the winter of 2008 when I was welcomed by a White Christmas to Seattle, as I stepped out of the airport after a 20 hour flight from New Delhi, India. It was an ethereal experience, waking up jetlagged in the middle of a cold winter night to inches of snow on my window sill.

2.    What brought you here?

Destiny brought me here, I would say, though the medium chosen was the world’s largest software organization which my husband was a part of, and there is no looking back now.

3.    How do you stay involved with your culture and heritage in the community?

Seattle and its Eastside neighbourhood have plenty of ethnic diversity, including a 40,000 odd Indian diaspora, so it is quite possible to bump into someone familiar ever so often. There are plenty of opportunities for creativity and intellectual stimulation when you meet the right set of people. Sampada was born out of the desire to stay connected with my inheritance, India’s art and craft at the same time offering the West an opportunity to experience authentic Indian quality products.

4.    Why is it important to you to stay involved?

My identity is deep rooted in Indian culture, especially around art, craft and embroidery apart from an array of mouth-watering cuisine from the sub-continent. As a business woman, I not only promote commerce but also use Sampada as a platform to raise cultural awareness of authentic Indian products, art and artisans and thus drive quality consciousness in consumers, given that plenty of cheap lookalikes are flooding the market.

5.    What are the major differences between the Indian community in the Northwest and other places you have lived?

From an international perspective, thought I have traveled within Southeast Asia, I have lived in only 1 country outside India, and most of my time in the US has been in the Pacific Northwest in the Seattle area. I can say that the Indian community here tries consciously to maintain ties back to its culture and nativity as they absorb the best of what the Northwest and the US have to offer. This is a positive sign of community living, especially for second generation Indians who are brought up here. You go the extra mile to keep your culture alive, which is sometimes taken for granted back home.


Aditya UppalaAditya Uppala

Aditya Uppala is a junior at Overlake High School in Redmond and President of the Indian Association of Western Washington’s Youth Board. He represents the second generation of Indians in our community who pride themselves for being bicultural- having the immense pride in being American Indian with a rich heritage and belonging to a nation that was built by immigrants themselves.

1. Is there a sense of belonging in Seattle for you?
Of course – I was born here and this is home for me. This is where I have family, friends, and communities I have grown to identify with and care for. I am proud of the Seahawks and I wait for the return of the NBA team back to its rightful place. Seattle is where I have grown up.

2. How is your life here similar to that of your family members in India?
While my sister and I have our parents as a constant in our lives, like my cousins in India, we also have an amazing group of family friends who have contributed in raising us children. Many of my Christmases and Thanksgivings are spent in homes of our family friends who have created these traditions for us second generation offspring in an effort to provide us with an awesome Indo-American childhood. So, very much like our cousins in India, we too have an extensive group of families around us who are there to help us in crises, encourage us as well as just be there for us as the “go to people”.

3. What role has Northwest Folklife played in your life?
Memorial Day weekend has always been about Folklife in our home. I remember the traditional Folklife meal of “crepes” and “funnel cakes” that my sister and I would always have at Folklife right after her dance performance at Folklife’s Colors and Cultures segment. We would wait anxiously for her dance to be done and pictures taken by the “aunties” (not just my parents) and then at least twenty of us kids would head straight to the many food booths starving. The fountain in Seattle Center would be packed and we never got tired of running through. Our Indian youth group did a flash mob there a couple years back and it was quite an experience to do Bollywood where you once watched eclectic performers entertain the crowds with music. Dance and acrobatics. Folklife has enriched our lives in Seattle both with the arts it has exposed us to as well as the platform it has provided us to explore our own roots. We always find time to be at the Folklife festival and every year we discover something unique be it in foods or music or arts.

4. You are the India Association of Western Washington’s Youth Board President for this year. How has the organization connected you with your heritage and your community?
IAWW as we call it has connected us youth not just to our roots but also to our community in Seattle. Our connection to the Indian independence, Republic Day, to our Festival of Lights ‘Diwali’ has been with events the organization has conducted every year for the Indian community here in Seattle. The most significant contribution I would say from IAWW to the youth of the Indo American community here has been the much loved Camp Bharat which celebrates the 25th year of its inception. IAWW’s Camp Bharat has every year for the past twenty five years provided the Indian community with a five day summer camp organized by youth for youth where one discovered the importance of belonging and pride in ones roots. Camp Bharat is much loved for the friendships, the leadership, and the belonging it provides us second generation youth. Kids look forward to the five days of endless sports, workshops, conversations and friendships. At the IAWW Youth Board, we have explored and enjoyed service to the greater Seattle community by participating in cooking meals for the homeless, packing food, cleaning up wastes, helping tutor and connect with youth who need the help and jn the process we have discovered the pleasure in giving not just to our own community but to the people at large. I believe we have been fortunate jn this community to have had so many platforms to explore our interests in leadership, service and learning through IAWW, Folklife and our own families.

pioneers_gaurDr. Lakshmi Gaur

Dr. Lakshmi Gaur is a scientist in the field of genomics who was recognized with one of the most prestigious award programs worldwide. After attending undergraduate school in India, she came to the United States as a Fullbright scholar and earned her PhD at the University of Washington. Lakshmi has been a patron to the India Association of Western Washington’s board since 2000 and has led as President, Director of Youth Program and Director of Social Mission Program.  Dr. Lakshmi Gaur has also been an ongoing participant of the Northwest Folklife Festival and has devoted many years to creating showcase Colors and Cultures of India.

1.    When did you move to the Northwest?

My first visit to Northwest was during Christmas 1979 – couldn’t keep away from the place longer. I moved to Seattle in April 1980.

2.    What brought you here?

Research opportunities at University of Washington

3.    How do you stay involved with your culture and heritage in the community?

The answer to such a question is a multi-layered one. One stays involved by involving oneself either directly or indirectly; directly by actively promoting and indirectly by passively patronizing the programs. I do both, as little as the effort may be. However, one has to be proud of his/her heritage and culture to do either. I believe we enrich communities by sharing our culture and acquiring influencing features from other cultures in the process.

I believe we all are creatures of habit, whether it’s food or dressing or language.  As much as we change in the process of adapting to our new environments, we still gravitate to what we were used to. The process could be very healthy for a transplanted community, as they pick the best of both worlds.

4.    Why is it important to you to stay involved?

It is important for me to stay involved because I believe I can create a common ground for the communities, the one I came from and the communities that embraced me.

Personally for me strong communities are those that are diverse yet enjoy cultural congruence. Diversity in a population often fosters tolerance, which is the key to learning that in turn breeds success. Most successful populations in the world today are populations with multi-ethnic and multi-cultural background.

5.    What are the major differences between the Indian community in the Northwest and other places you have lived?

I don’t have good yardstick to measure this, as I lived most of my life in the Northwest. The only other place I can compare is Greensboro, NC – 25 years ago. I was too busy with my two kids and profession to take part in community activities. However, there is more unity within diverse Indian communities in small cities than in big cities. Over the years Seattle area has seen a steady growth in Indian community, resulting in multiple associations purely based on language.  I like the united concept because, the great thing about India is its linguistic diversity bound with cultural thread. This is one of reasons I never cease to be a part of India Association of Western Washington.

*Stay Tuned for More Interviews

Join the Programming Team at Folklife!

Do you love music, arts, and culture?

Are you interested in learning what it takes to program the largest free community arts festival in the nation?


The Skablins; photo by Piper Hanson

The Skablins; photo by Piper Hanson

Folklife is now seeking a Programming Intern for the 2014 Folklife Festival (May 23-26, 2014)! The Programming Internship is central to the programming Northwest Folklife has to offer. This Intern plays a key role in ensuring smooth festival production from a programming standpoint.


Interning at Northwest Folklife can be the experience you need to gain a career in event planning, festival production, the music industry, nonprofit management, marketing, fundraising and a whole host of other fields. Interns at Northwest Folklife take on a significant role in executing the largest free community arts festival in the nation and learn how to increase visibility and strengthen the sustainability of a nonprofit organization.


This internship is from December through June — 20 hours a week.

Interested? Follow this link!

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Now Accepting Performer Applications

CallGraphic1Northwest Folklife invites musicians, dancers, community groups, artists, storytellers, and instructors to participate in the 43rd annual Northwest Folklife Festival, which will take place May 23-26, 2014, at Seattle Center.

If you or your group is based in the Northwest region, including Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Western Montana, this is a great opportunity to share your music and traditions!

The annual Northwest Folklife Festival is the largest FREE community arts festival in the United States. It is presented each year in Seattle by Northwest Folklife, a year-round nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for all people to appreciate, share, and participate in the evolving traditions of the Pacific Northwest.

Last year Northwest Folklife programmed over 6,000 performers in 65 different genres of music, from Hawaiian to hip-hop. We presented dance performances representing cultures from Ireland to India. We believe everyone is a bearer of folk arts, and we encourage communities to share their cultural traditions, in the hope that interaction with new audiences will enrich the community as much as the audience.


Interested in how we select bands and performance groups? Click here to read our Programming FAQ.

Still have questions? Email our programming team now.

Photo by Dan Thornton

Your Question Answered: When Can I Apply for the 2014 Festival?

Photo by Dan Thornton

The 2013 Festival just ended, but we can’t blame you for asking:

When can groups submit applications for 2014 Folklife?

The 2014 application to perform will go live on September 15 at our website. I’d suggest subscribing to our eNews or “liking” us on Facebook to be sure you get the announcement! Thanks to everyone who is interested in participating!

The Onlies take a bow. Photo by Dan Thornton.

Thank You for a Fantastic 2013 Festival!

The Onlies take a bow. Photo by Dan Thornton.

The 42nd annual Northwest Folklife Festival came to a close on the evening of May 27th, wrapping up four days of music, dance, food, history, art, and celebration. But the Folklife spirit doesn’t end with the Festival—we are already at work preparing more opportunities for the public to share in the region’s traditions.

The Northwest Folklife Festival brought together over 6,000 performers across 22 stages, with the aid of at least 800 volunteers. This year the Festival drew an estimated crowd of 230,000 people to Seattle Center over four days. The crowds enjoyed surprisingly fair weather for most of the event, and spirits were high despite periods of rain on the final day.

But, as the lead singer from The Sojourners noted, “Rain crowds are the best audience, because you know they really want to be here!”

Festival highlights included a fascinating and moving discussion with Washington State “Rosies,” women who went to work in the shipyards during WWII. The talk was part of the Cultural Focus “Washington Works.” Energetic crowds were in full force for a Saturday night performance by soul band Eldridge Gravy, as well as Monday evening’s performance by reggae legend Clinton Fearon and his Boogie Brown Band. Rain was even embraced during the stirring set by pedal-steel band The Slide Brothers on Monday afternoon. And the Exhibition Hall was standing-room-only during Friday night’s Bollywood Showcase, a good sign that next year’s Cultural Focus on India will be hugely popular and engaging.

The festival is presented by Northwest Folklife, a year-round organization with nine staff members. In addition to the annual Festival, we also produce other events throughout the year. Indeed, a monthly community dance series at the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue kicked off just a week before the big Festival, and will continue every third Saturday through October. June’s event is a family dance, and July offers a taste of folk dances from around the world.

Photo by Daniel Thornton

The Cultural Focus of “Washington Works” will not end with the Festival. Deputy Director Debbie Fant, a folklorist, will continue to collect oral histories from union workers across Washington State as part of an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, eventually producing several short documentaries with filmmaker Doug Plummer that will be archived at the Library of Congress and the Washington State Labor Archives.

Folklife is also hosting a community-building night at Safeco Field on August 6, when the Mariners face off against the Toronto Blue Jays. As an organization that represents the greater Northwest region, we hope that Festival friends will come down from Alberta and British Columbia for a reunion of sorts.

In the fall, Folklife will host an autumn harvest celebration at Town Hall. More details about this event on November 1st will be announced our website,

Says Executive Director Rob Townsend, “The board and staff of Northwest Folklife thank all of our many supporters, the thousands of performers who volunteer their talents, and the hundreds volunteers who came out to the Festival this past weekend and shared in the arts and heritage of our region. Our mission—to share the talents and traditions of the Pacific Northwest—is what drives us to create even more opportunities to build community throughout the year.”

Please enjoy photos from the 42nd Northwest Folklife Festival at our Facebook page, where we’ll also post updates about all things Folklife.

Read a great Festival summary at the Seattle Times

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Photo by Piper Hanson

Celebrate Your Traditions – Monday Highlights & Memorial Day Ceremony


Photo by Piper Hanson

Northwest Folklife opens the final day of the 2013 Festival with a special Memorial Day Ceremony on the Mural Stage. Please join us! Then continue to celebrate our Northwest traditions—and honor our history!

See full schedule at our website.

Memorial Day Flag Ceremony: Celebrating Memorial Day, the Flag Raising Ceremony will include words from Northwest Folklife, the Seattle Police Department Color Guard, the West Seattle Cub Scout Pack 828, and music from Calum McKinnon &the Northwest Scottish Fiddlers, with bagpiper Jori Chisholm.
Monday, May 27 at 11:00am at the Xfinity Mural Amphitheatre.

Kindiependent: Get ready to rock your onesie socks off! This wildly popular show is supposedly for youngsters, but don’t be surprised to see some in-the-know hipsters there too. Featuring the musical stylings of Harmonica Pocket, The Not-Its!, Recess Monkey, Johnny Bregar and the Country Dawgs, and (new this year!) Cat Doorman. Sponsored by ParentMap.
Monday, May 27 from 11:00am-2:30pm on the Fountain Lawn Stage.

American Standard Time Showcase: Some of the best names in roots music (and a little bit of gospel!) will hit the stage during this Indie Roots showcase, brought to you by BECU, and hosted by KEXP’s Roadhouse radio presenter Greg Vandy. The lineup includes The Sojourners, The Sumner Brothers, Crow Quill Night Owls and The Slide Brothers. Sponsored by alt-country authority No Depression.
Monday, May 27 from 3:30-6:10pm on the KBCS Fisher Green Stage.

IWW Little Red Songbook: Enflaming the Fans of Discontent: This year’s Festival “theme” is all about work! Help us wind up the weekend with a soul-stirring sing-a-long from the Industrial Workers of the World’s Little Red Songbook. See the full schedule of Washington Works talks, demonstrations, storytelling, art exhibits, film screenings and more at our website,
Monday, May 27 from 5:00-6:00pm at the Narrative Stage at SIFF Cinema.

Ver(A)rt Gallery Closing Reception: Toast the young artists who contributed to this weekend’s gallery show “When Your Work Speaks for Itself, Don’t Interrupt: Perspectives on Working.”
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