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What is Community Power?

The Northwest Folklife Festival is a phenomenon. Do you think it could get off the ground if we tried to start it today? Here’s the pitch: Let’s put on a participatory arts and culture Festival featuring the folklife (a word actually missing from most dictionaries) and living traditions of all the Northwest communities we can possibly reach out to, newcomer and native alike. Let’s work one-on-one with hundreds of communities and artists to share and celebrate their arts and cultural traditions the way they want to have them presented. If a community is not quite ready, let’s find a small step they can take to participate in a meaningful way, and get them connected to the greater community. Then, with these 5,000 or so musicians, dancers and artists, let’s put on a four-day Festival and not charge admission! We want everyone to have access. Let’s make it a massive pay-what-you-can art event. Do you think the Northwest Folklife Festival idea could fly if we started it today?

The Northwest Folklife Festival thrives and continues to evolve with the people of the Pacific Northwest because it is community-powered, and has been for 45 years. Here’s how:

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The heart of our community power is the thousands of individuals who contribute their talent and time to participate in Northwest Folklife programming. For the Folklife Festival, that starts with a call for artist applications every fall. Last year, Northwest Folklife implemented a call for Cultural Focus as well. Communities’ and individuals’ responses to these calls are the basis for programmatic themes going forward.  Northwest Folklife programming staff sort proposals by genre and discipline, looking to represent the arts, cultures and traditions of all who apply. A committee of arts practitioners additionally guides Cultural Focus programming. (Learn more about Northwest Folklife’s Cultural Focus program and the communities we’ve worked with through the years.)

Northwest Folklife’s community power is all about self–expression. Performers, participants, patrons: we all believe that participation in the arts is as important as observing them. Northwest Folklife creates opportunities, and over 1,000 musicians, dancers and artists answer our call for participation. The notion of celebrating, sharing, and participating in the evolving cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest captures the imagination of folks who want to be part of a movement; a community undertaking, in which we envision strong communities through arts and culture. Volunteers help paint this canvas by fulfilling important jobs. And, as an organization, Northwest Folklife makes it so, behind the scenes, nurturing relationships and exploring possibilities all year.

Community Power comes in the form of our public-private partnership with the City of Seattle. Northwest Folklife, an independent 501(c)-3 nonprofit organization, partners with Seattle Center, a department of the City of Seattle, to produce the annual Folklife Festival and the Seattle Children’s Festival. Northwest Folklife is a member of the Festal community of ethnic festivals. The City of Seattle’s in-kind investment in Northwest Folklife’s work supports around 45% of direct expenses, powering Northwest Folklife and our capacity to strengthen communities through arts and culture. Programs are further supported by Friends of Folklife and other donors, funders, sponsors, vendors, and craft and food merchants.

Community Power is everything. Northwest Folklife stands for the belief that the arts invigorate and revitalize interpersonal connections and sense of community. When people share aspects of their culture, opportunities are created to dissolve misunderstandings, break down stereotypes, and increase respect for one another. We invite YOU to participate in dance, workshops, jams, and the choral courtyard when you attend the Folklife Festival. Come and meet your neighbor!

Community Power is about everyone joining together to create strong communities through arts and culture. Join us. Get involved. Or, just come on down, drop in this Memorial Day weekend: May 27-May 30 to explore the evolving cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest at the Northwest Folklife Festival.

Community Powered!

Purchasing Performer Recordings

This year Folklife performers with recordings will be selling CDs at their stages, during and after their performances. Look for the round umbrellas next to outdoor stages or tables at indoor venues. You can also find a link to buy recordings (if available) from their listing on our online schedule tool.

This year we are not offering a Folklife Store with performer recordings. Though the Folklife Store was appreciated by many, unfortunately it was just not financially viable for us. The sales from the CDs did not come close to breaking even with the expense of administering the store. As we faced a tighter budget this year, we decided our money was best used to sustain the number of stages and other amenities we offered at the Festival.

We want to do everything we can to support the hundreds of musicians who donate their performances to make this Festival great. We hope that you’ll help us in this by purchasing CDs at the stages or online after the Festival.

You can also make a donation to Folklife here, to help us maintain and expand the Festival we love. 

Your Question Answered: Selling Items at the Festival

This one came in from a local jewelry maker:

I know you let people perform music on the streets during the Festival, but do you let people wander and sell crafts too?

The answer is no. If you want to be a vendor of food or crafts, please apply in the winter and go through the formal process. Otherwise the Festival is not the place for casual craft selling.

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Can I Camp at the Festival?

This tent’s not meant for sleeping.

For our out-of-town guests, this might not be obvious:

Can I sleep overnight at Folklife?

Northwest Folklife takes place at Seattle Center, a public Seattle city park. There is no camping allowed. However, we have some great options for you. We have some great deals worked out with nearby hotels and hostels. And for those of you looking to save a few dollars, we have set up an event on Couchsurfing to help you connect with locals with a couch or bed to spare…or maybe even just a place to pitch your tent or park you RV. Check it out on our website:

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Can You Bring Pets to the Festival?

This is what you’re dog is up against. Photo by Ben Shaevitz.

We’ve gotten two inquiries about pets in the last week, so there’s probably more of you out there that are wondering:

Can I bring my pet to the Festival?

Because Folklife takes place in a public park, pets are technically allowed, but we do discourage bringing them to the Festival. The streets can be crowded and not everyone is comfortable around your dog or other pet, even if you believe them to be friendly. The crowded spaces can stress some animals out, especially if there are other dogs nearby. You also cannot enter indoor venues with any animals, so you’ll miss out on a lot of great activities.

Please seriously consider leaving your beloved pooch at home while you come to the grounds. If you plan to bring an exotic pet, like a bird or snake, you may be asked to leave.

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Gospel Music at Folklife

I was very excited to answer this inquiry that came in this morning from William:

Will there be any gospel music performers this year?

The answer is yes! We have some fantastic gospel musicians joining us this year.

Join us on Friday in the Bagley Wright Theatre beginning at 7pm for the Friday Night Gospel Celebration featuring the Total Experience Gospel Choir and Friends, and the Mount Calvary COGIC Praise Team.

If you are not familiar with the Total Experience Gospel Choir, I’d suggest watching our Northwest Stories documentary straight away:

We are also thrilled to welcome two new gospel groups to the Festival this year, both of whom will be joining the American Standard Time Showcase on Monday, May 27 beginning at 3:30pm on the Fountain Lawn Stage.

If you are not yet familiar with The Sojourners, be prepared to be blown away! Showcase host Greg Vandy has described them as one of his favorite discoveries of 2013.

Also in the American Standard Time Showcase will be the incredible Slide Brothers and their amazing pedal steel guitar.

Add these shows and others to your personal 2013 Folklife schedule by creating an account now!

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Is Folklife Free?

Sometimes it can just be too good to be true, so you have to double-check.

Laura asks, “Is Folklife free?”

Yes, the Northwest Folklife Festival is free to the public!

Wait, how is this possible?

It is Folklife’s mission to provide opportunities for everyone to celebrate and participate in the arts & traditions of the Northwest. However, in order to keep the Festival free for future generations, we suggest a donation of $10 per person per day (or $20 for family/groups). You can also become a Friend of Folklife and receive special benefits and free goodies.

Help us keep the tradition alive by doing your part and donating what you can! Click here to contribute now.

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Is the Festival Going to be 21+?

Families at the 2012 Folklife Festival — photo by Piper Hanson.

Wow! Here is a question we’ve never gotten before:

I’ve heard that you’re going to make Folklife a 21 or older event. Is this true?

It is not true! I’m not sure where this rumor started, but the Northwest Folklife Festival will always be all-ages, and open to everyone! And it will always be FREE!

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here.

Your Question Answered: Are You Still Looking for Performers for the 2013 Festival?

Here’s one that came in from Bainbridge Island, but I bet a few other people might be wondering the same thing:

If its not too late, we would like to be considered for performance this year.

The answer is: Sorry! It’s too late.

Each year the application to perform goes live on our website on September 1, and the deadline is December 15. If you are interested in performing at the 2014 Festival, I’d suggest you sign up for our eNews or like us on Facebook to be alerted to when the application goes up. You are still welcome to participate in the 2013 Festival as a busker, or by joining in one of our dances or singalongs.

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Past Festival Attendance

Photo by Ben Shaevitz

A past Festival exhibitor ponders this one:

I was wondering what the attendance figures have been the last few years?

Great question! The answer is that last year’s attendance was around 250,000 people over the course of four days. While we don’t do an official count, we are able to estimate numbers based on counts made at individual venues and by the Seattle Police Department. We are also fortunate to have many returning staff members and volunteers, who can help contribute their impressions on whether a crowd was bigger or smaller than previous years. For example, 2010 was an outstanding year thanks to perfect weather (4 days of 75 degree sunshine!) that attracted record-breaking crowds upwards of 260,000 people. However, 2011 was a smaller turnout, thanks to a smattering of rainy days. Crowds were closer to 235,000 people.

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here

Your Question Answered: Getting a 2013 Folklife Guide & Schedule

Nancy’s question is a good one for all you planners:

When will the online 2013 Festival guide be available?

Here are the important dates to get on your calendar:

  • A complete PDF, ready to print at home, AND our online tool with a customizable schedule will be online the first week of May.
  • You can swing by our offices in Seattle Center to pick up a copy, and look for other distribution locations (like libraries) on our website, beginning May 15.
  • The printed souvenir Festival guide will be available as an insert in home editions of the Seattle Times on Thursday, May 23.

Do you have a question for Northwest Folklife? Submit it here!
Read other submitted questions here