A Letter to Our Community: Postponement of the 49th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival

To our dear Folklife friends and family,

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of changes for our community responding to the impacts of COVID-19. Each day has shed light to more possible factors, barriers, and limitations to public events like ours. Throughout this time, we’ve had many conversations regarding the status of this situation and its possible effects on Northwest Folklife’s organization and programming, particularly the upcoming Northwest Folklife Festival. After many difficult conversations and determining how we could continue planning amidst this time of uncertainty, we have come to the extremely difficult decision to postpone the 49th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival (May 22-25, 2020). The Festival has taken place every Memorial Day Weekend, at Seattle Center for the past 48 years. This decision was not made lightly, but ultimately, we feel this is the best decision for our greater community. 

In a year where we are honoring and celebrating our elders through our Cultural Focus: Living Legacies, our responsibility to practice exemplary community care is paramount. We believe that postponement of this important tradition is necessary to protect the public, and particularly our most vulnerable populations. 

For the past 48 years, the annual Northwest Folklife Festival has been a pinnacle event in our region showcasing over 6,000 artists and culture bearers, creating four days of cultural exchange, intergenerational engagement, and community connection. The Festival is more than a celebration of the diversity of the Pacific Northwestit’s a chance to engage directly with the many communities that make up our region. It is the place to find your folk.

As the Festival is built by and for the community, we will remain in deep consultation with many of our partners and culture bearers as we continue to plan. As we navigate this challenging time together, we want to ensure you that serving our community is always at the forefront of our work. 

What’s next, you ask? In the interim, we are researching opportunities and reaching out to partners for ways we can continue to provide platforms for our collective voice, arts, and traditions to be shared and celebrated. We are dedicating staff capacity and organizational infrastructure to directly support community advocacy and relief. Please refer to our COVID-19 Artist & Community Resource List for funding and mutual aid resources, and share this resource with your greater community.

Through it all, we believe living out your folklife can happen in any place, at any time. Although we cannot celebrate together in one space at this time, we hope to see you continue to share your songs, dances, foods, and stories that keep us going. As we look ahead to celebrating 50 years in 2021, we look towards future days to gather as friends, neighbors, and family alike. With that said, although efforts have shifted to hold our community in this time of need, we are envisioning what the next rendition of the 49th Annual Northwest Folklife Festival can look like to best serve the needs of our community. 

YOU are Folklifeyou are our family, and we will get through this together. 

Ways to stay connected:

#FindYourFolk: How do you continue to live out your folklife within your own home? What are the songs, dances, recipes, stories, and traditions that fuel your livelihood? Share them with us and the greater community using the hashtag #FindYourFolk! 

Living Legacies: In this time of social distancing, we encourage you to virtually connect with culture bearers in your family or community and ask them questions about the legacies that they have passed down to you. What is the story behind your mom’s posole recipe? When did your grandfather learn how to contra dance? What is the story behind your neighborhood’s potluck? Join us in uplifting the living legacies in our lives! Use the Living Legacies Toolkit to get you started and share your stories with us using the hashtag #NWFLlivinglegacies.

With gratitude,

Kelli Faryar, Executive Artistic Director
Reese Tanimura, Managing Director


We encourage you to follow the advisories and best practices available through the King County Public Health website, exercise caution and judiciousness around your personal health, as well as be conscientious of how to keep our communities healthy.