Another Year of Family-Fun: Seattle Children’s Festival 2017

The 4th annual Seattle’s Children’s Festival brought together over 211 performers spanning over 27 performances, 15 discovery zone programs, three cooking workshops and families from all over the city together for one day full of community celebration, cultural learning and sharing, hands-on discovery and family-fun!

On Sunday, October 8, the Seattle Center’s Armory and Fisher Pavilion were filled with bright-eyed children and families as we all explored the various performances and activities that represent the various cultures within our Pacific Northwest neighborhood! Having the wonderful opportunity to see our youth and families gather in one place, learning about our various cultures, taking pride in diversity and celebrating one another—these are some of the many reasons why we feel honored to host this event annually. Thank all of you for yet another incredible year of gathering and celebration!

What’s Next?

We are excited to announce the Our Big Neighborhood program, which aims to provide opportunities for families to engage together in sharing and celebrating the vitality of folk, ethnic, traditional and evolving arts. Our Big Neighborhood will fully launch in 2018 to include Seattle Children’s Festival as well as more programming catered for our youth and families, so be sure to sign up for our eNewsletter to stay updated on when the official launch is announced!

Show Your Support

Northwest Folklife is a nonprofit arts organization that creates programs such as Seattle Children’s Festival because of our belief in the vitality of folk and the arts. We are proud to be community-powered, community-centered and community-driven. Programs such as Seattle Children’s Festival are made possible because of your generous donations. If you believe in our mission, please become a valued Friend of Folklife and help us fund our year-round programming!

Did you take any fun photos or videos? Please share them with us by tagging us on Twitter and Instagram (@nwfolklife) or using our hashtags #SeattleChildrensFestival and #Folklifekids! Until next year!

Sign Up For Our Seattle Children’s Festival Email List | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Celebrate Our Big Neighborhood: Your Guide to Seattle Children’s Festival

Seattle Children’s Festival, a one-day multi-cultural, intergenerational day of exploration and celebration, is back for its fourth year! Brought to you by Northwest Folklife and Seattle Center, this family-focused festival was built from the ground-up with our youth and families in mind to provide programming that can nurture our youth’s education and exploration of the diverse community we live in. With Seattle Children’s Festival just one day away, we want to share with you some of the tips on how to best navigate the festival!

1. Grab Your Passport and Start Your Trip

Once you arrive at Seattle Center, find the Donation & Information Booth to pick up your very own passport! This is your guide to Seattle Children’s Festival, as it includes a map, the festival’s schedule, fun coloring pages and a quest to collect 6 stamps at specific locations!

Fill out your “About Me” section and drop it off at the station for a chance to win one of two gift baskets complete with museum passes, art supplies and more!

2. Travel the World Through Performances

Take a look at your passport to locate our two main stages, the Fisher Pavilion Stage and the Armory Court Stage. There, you’ll witness incredible performances from a wide variety of artists like the popular family-centric rock band, The Not-Its!, and Tahitian dance group, Te Fare O Tamatoa.

3. Get Ready for Story Time

Head over to Loft 1B to join in on the various story time programs, from learning about stories about inclusivity at Drag Queen Story Time with Aleksa Manila to learning American Sign Language with Visually Speaking.

4. Get Up and Dance

Our Movement Series aims to promote movement and active lifestyles for the entire family! At this festival, you can find a variety of hands-on dancing programming throughout the day!

5. Make New Discoveries at The Discovery Zones

Welcome to the Discovery Zones! These areas promote hands-on learning and discovery for the curious mind. Create your own mini-ecosculpture with Nature Consortium, explore a fun gymnastics obstacle course with Seattle Gymnastic Academy, try out some acoustic instruments with Wintergrass!

New to this festival:
  1. The STEAM Lab on the Armory Balcony is a space dedicated to hands-on science, technology, engineering art and math activities!
  2. The Instrument Petting Zoo in the Discovery Zone in the Armory features hands-on music-making from musical instruments around the world!


6. Grab A Healthy Snack

Eating can be fun, delicious and healthy all at the same time! Visit our snack workshops at the Armory Balcony to learn how to make various foods including 5 grain healthy flatbreads, fry bars and tabbouleh!

7. Take a Break at Our Low Sensory Space

For families needing a little break, visit the Low Sensory Space at Loft 1A for a space with dimmed lights and minimal sound. Nursing parents are also welcome, as there will be a special lounge where you can feed your little ones!

8. Snap a Picture

If you take any photos throughout the day, be sure to tag us (@nwfolklife) and use our official hashtags, #SeattleChildrensFestival and #FolklifeKids!

9. Become a Friend of Folklife

If you enjoy your time at Seattle Children’s Festival, help us make it possible for future generations! Northwest Folklife’s programming is made possible with your generous donations. We are community-centered and community-powered. Make a donation at any of our Donation Booths or make a donation online here. If you give at the festival, you can add your own special colored ribbon to our Giving Gateway to add to the magic!

Give a child the gift of discovery!


Join us in Celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at Seattle Children’s Festival, happening at Seattle Center on Sunday, October 8 from 10 AM to 5 PM. Get ready for a day full of exploration, discover and endless family fun!

RSVP on Facebook Event Page | Website

Seattle Children’s Festival is sponsored in part by Seattle Center, Living Computers Museum + Labs, Springfree Trampoline, Event Technology Rentals, Smith Brothers Farm, Delta Dental, Babyrific, Imperfect Produce, Babyrific, Delta Dental, Voya Financial, Super Heroic, KindBase, Ladybug Literacy Lab and NRG Insurance.

We also want to give a big thank you to our media sponsors: ParentMap, KING FM, KCTS 9, 90.7 KSER, 91.3 KBCS, Northwest Asian Weekly, Seattle Weekly, Northwest Vietnamese News, KEXP, The Seattle Globalist, South Seattle Emerald, Rainier Avenue Radio, City Arts and Seattle’s Child.

All photos courtesy of Erinn Hale

A Cultural Stronghold: A Chat with Juliet Cheatle of Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival

In partnership with the Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival, we are excited to welcome Juliet Cheatle to Seattle Children’s Festival, where she will showcase the Filipino culture through rural dance, music and attire!

Also known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” the Philippines is a country located in Southeast Asia comprised of 7,107 islands. With a population of about 100 million people, the Philippines is rich with cultural tradition, familial values and a love for the arts.

Since 1987, this festival has spread the beauty of Filipino culture with Washington, through its annual festival full of music, crafts, food and community gathering. As a part of our Movement Series, Juliet Cheatle will be teaching our audiences some traditional rural Philippine dances. Get to know Juliet before you see her at Seattle Children’s Festival on October 8:

What is something our audiences can expect from your performance?

I believe the audience will expect to see a lively and festive Filipino traditional dance and wherein dancers are wearing colorful costumes. And also the audience will see and feel a glimpse of Filipino culture by watching  the dances and by  participating in the workshop and actually will be dancing holding a prop and doing the moves.

What do you think is one of the most beautiful or unique aspects of the Filipino culture?

The most beautiful aspect of the Filipino culture is no doubt its people, the Filipinos.

“Despite of the many influences and colonization from foreign countries, the Filipinos still hold strong with their culture.”

Strong family ties are very important, and [showing] respect for parents and elders is still a strong [value] in the Filipino culture. Filipinos are hospitable and love to smile. They are hardworking people but they also know how to have good fun; they love to sing and dance.

How do you hope to preserve the Filipino culture through dance and attire?

I hope to preserve the Filipino culture through dance, music and attire by “keeping on” doing it, teaching it and involving more of the younger generation in learning it so they can teach it, too, when teachers like me won’t be around to do it.  The traditional dances are endangered and it’s continued transmission should go on. I hope more of our younger generation will continue on the work in preserving it.

My hope for community is interest and support, such as like financial support, grants and provide free space to teach in order to continue the teaching and transmission of this unique form of art and culture. If there is no support and interest, then there is danger that all of this will fade away.

How did you get involved with the Pagdiriwang Festival?

The late Ms. Florie Motante, founder of the Pagdiriwang Festival, invited my group to perform in Seattle Center (probably 15+ years ago).  The reason I was attracted and started to get involved with it is because it is different from other Filipino festivals that I attended. Pagdiriwang Festival is not only a festival to attend and see entertainment, but it is also a festival wherein you can learn about the traditional culture.

“The Pagdiriwang Festival points out the importance of why the culture needs to be preserve and why it is celebrated.”

It is important for my group and I to go and perform in front of an audience who doesn’t take what we do on stage for granted. I want my audience to not only be entertained but also to learn, appreciate what we are doing, understand the cultural context of what we are performing and to walk out the event feeling proud being a Filipino.  I believe that the Pagdiriwang Festival is also an experience. You will meet all kind of artists who are passionate in what they do in teaching and sharing the Filipino culture.

Can you explain the meaning or story behind some of your performances?

The dance and workshop that we are going to be sharing during the Seattle Children’s Festival are the following:

Binasuan:  This dance originated from the province of Pangasinan in the island of Luzon. During festive gatherings, the women will dance by carefully and gracefully balancing glasses filled with sugar cane wine on their heads and hands before they served it to the guests.

Bulaklakan Dance (meaning Flowering Plants): This dance originated from the town of Bulacan in the island of Luzon. The town derived its name after “bulaklakan” meaning flowering plants because of the abundance of floral vegetation in that area. This dance is traditionally performed during the celebrations of  Santa Cruz de Mayo , a Catholic event honoring the Virgin Mary. But nowadays, it is performed at any festive occasion. Women dance, each holding an arch or ring made of rattan or split bamboo decorated with flowers and leaves.

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Exposing the youth to another culture and identity is teaching cultural diversity. They will be able to identify with other people no matter their [origin], beliefs, religion, language or values.

“Exposing our youth to various cultures, identities and people will teach them not to take their own culture for granted. They will learn and discover how valuable and how unique their own culture is.”

By doing this they will learn to be more respectful of another culture and identity. Exposing them is also like teaching them how to understand, and how to communicate with other culture and identity.

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I believe that we can celebrate all this by incorporating it in our daily life.  At home, at work, in school, in the church, in the community or any place appropriate. 

I use food to celebrate my Filipino culture and other cultures.  When my children were growing up, I had them plan dinner with me, and I let them invite friends over to have dinner with us. We started by going to a market or grocery store to buy our ingredients. My children and their friends enjoyed the food and, at the same time, they learned about it. We talk about where the food originated, the certain kinds of foods that were used in a ritual, why the food is important in someone’s culture, etc.

I do the same thing in my workplace. We have Chinese, French, Italian, Nigerian [folks] in our office and every Friday, we have lunch where we order or we prepare different kinds of foods. Since our company has projects worldwide, our engineers travel a lot, too, and they share their travel experiences with the rest of us.

Anyone of us can celebrate arts, culture, heritage, diversity and identity in many different ways.

Let’s come together and celebrate our big neighborhood at the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival, happening on October 8 at Seattle Center. Pagdiriwang Festival’s special performance featuring Juliet Cheatle will be at the Armory Court Stage at 3:30 PM. A special thank you to the Armory Court Stage sponsor, KCTS 9!

Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Own It Like a Boss with The Big-Brained Superheroes Club

Piece submitted by Ariel Grob of The Big-Brained Superheroes Club

“’Owning it like a boss’ is improvising when you get stuck on a project. Or Googling it.”

– Istanbul, 10 years old

‘Own it like a boss’ is a phrase you’ll hear over and over at the Yesler Community Center’s STE(A)M group, The Big-Brained Superheroes Club. Why? Because we value project ownership and believe that when Big Brains (i.e. any neighborhood kid age 4-18) ‘own’ their projects, they are empowered to try out new skills and exercise their ‘superpowers.’  

We’ve found that this kind of ownership evokes critical thinking and creativity, more so than any assignment they are required or told to do.

We’re guessing you can relate to this:

Can you recall a time as a kid or teenager (or even as an adult) when you were told what to do perhaps a class project, household chore, or a task at work? Now, what about a project you undertook simply because you wanted to, such as taking up rock climbing, practicing a new language, or simply picking up a book to read?

It’s likely that the project you chose, however frustrating or difficult, was more rewarding and entertaining than the one you were told to do.

Don’t get us wrong: guidance from someone more experienced is always good, but we’ve found that by giving the Big Brains the autonomy to choose and lead their own nerdy projects, we’re giving them the chance to sift through their options and find something that is truly interesting to them, exercise creative and critical thinking to get that project off the ground, and then own it: like a boss.

This phrase has become the Big Brains’ motto. Whether it’s Weris’s ‘Welcome Robot,’ Sammy’s mini binary counter, Ibrahim’s math homework, or Muz’s wood-and-water robotic arm, there are plenty of opportunities to own it like a boss.

So, how does one ‘own it like a boss’? In the words of the Big Brains, here are six ways you can own any project like a boss.

  1. Try your hardest.
    This one is as simple as it sounds: all you’ve got to do is simply show up and put in the work.
  2. Be persistent.
    As the adage goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (quote by William Edward Hickson)
  3. Ask a friend for their opinion or help.
    Everyone around you has a different perspective; someone else may just have the answer to a problem you keep getting stuck on.
  4. Improvise & be flexible.
    If you don’t have the right materials you need for your project, try using something else. Or if you keep getting stuck, move on to a different step and come back to it later.
  5. Google it.
    Whether it’s an instructional YouTube video or an article on the topic, Google has an answer for you that will help move your project forward.
  6. Be kind & pitch in, even when no one else is.
    The world of nerdy makers is truly a community: just like others will be there for you when you need it, be ready to help someone else with their project.

And here’s a bonus reminder from Big Brain Justin: “…keep pushing, even when you’re tired.”

The Seattle Children’s Festival is a great opportunity to flex your superpowers and ‘own it like a boss.’ From musical workshops to arts-and-craft projects to the Discovery Zone activities, you’ll find something new, and perhaps a bit challenging but definitely fun, to try out.

Eagerly awaiting the Seattle Children’s Festival, the Big-Brained Superheroes Club can’t wait to rub shoulders with Seattle’s nerdy community, celebrate ‘our big neighborhood,’ and help each other own it like a boss.

Visit The Big-Brained Superheroes Club at the STEAM Lab in the Armory Balcony for some exploration with electricity! The Big-Brained Superheroes of Yesler have built a dynamic, hands-on electricity playground for people of all ages to learn about and create with this fundamental force. Big Brains play to learn and make. A special thank you to the STEAM Lab sponsor, Living Computers Museum + Labs, and to Friends of Folklife for supporting the festival!

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

The Legend of Song: An Interview with Te Fare O Tamatoa

The core of our annual Seattle Children’s Festival is to create a space for youth and families to get to know their neighbors and the diverse cultures that thrive within our big neighborhood. One of those cultures that we’re very excited to have represented at this year’s festival is the beautiful Polynesian culture. Te Fare O Tamatoa, a nonprofit organization based in Beacon Hill, strives to raise cultural awareness by educating the public about Tahitian drumming and dancing.

Comprised of members of all ages, Te Fare O Tamatoa spreads the beauty of the Polynesian culture through offering drumming and dance classes and performing at various festivals and gatherings. We are so excited to have Te Fare O Tamato at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival. Check out our interview with Nanave Radford, the Artistic Director of their dance group, Te’arama, where we chatted about the Polynesian culture and what we can expect from their performance at the upcoming festival on October 8!

We are so excited to have you at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! Can you give us a little hint of what to expect from your performance?

Your audience can expect a high energy performance of traditional Tahitian culture with some modern flare.

Can you explain the meaning of Te Fare O Tamatoa? How did it originate?

Te Fare O Tamatoa translates to ‘The House of Tamatoa.’ When we use the name Tamatoa, we are speaking of the King Tamatoa II from the island of Raiatea in French Polynesia. It is from him that our matriarch, Manio Radford and her family, are descended. Many of Te Fare O Tamatoa’s instructors and directors are of the Radford family and in trying to choose a name for our organization 10+ years ago, we decided to go with something that held true to our roots. Something that held meaning for us and who we are and what our mission is. Spreading Tahitian culture through song and dance from our culture to yours.

On your website, it says that dance was used as a way of communicating when there was no written language. What role do you think the arts play creating a form of communication within our multicultural community?

“Art is a very powerful and personal way of communicating. “

It is so important that these ways of sharing history, emotion, experiences, etc. stay alive in our communities because not only is it a unique way of expressing a group or one’s self, but it’s a part of who we are and where we have come from. Every culture is very different yet the same in some ways. We may not always understand each other when we speak. However, an image, a sound, or a dance, can all speak messages beyond what words can express. It’s a way to understand one another even if we can’t speak to one another

How do music and dance help you to celebrate the Polynesian culture? What role do the arts play in Polynesian culture?

These arts are a part of who we are as a people and who we always have been. Arts even beyond song and dance with things like jewelry and clothing/regalia. The role it plays is an identifier of who we are.

What is one thing about the Polynesian culture that you wish people knew?

“I wish people knew that Polynesia is more than Hawaii and Moana.”

Growing up a mixed Polynesian individual, it is nice to see this change. With the recent release of Disney’s Moana, the Polynesian culture has had great exposure, but I feel like this could also cause people to be confused. My older brother’s name is Tamatoa. People think he’s named after a shiny crab. he’s not; He’s named after the King from Raiatea.

What kind of stories do you share through song and dance?

Within our organization, our performance group, Te’arama, mostly shares legends. My favorite so far was our legend “Te Vahine aita-ata” which means the man eating woman. This woman keeps her daughter sheltered from everything until one day, a man makes it onto the grounds where he falls madly in love with the daughter. In the lovers’ plan to escape the mother, she finds out which leads to the eating of the man. There are of course songs of everyday life such as how to use the ground oven, the beauty of a woman, or falling in love, which we will also dance to.

What is one thing you learned from the founder of Te Fare O Tamatoa founder, Manio Radford, that you wish to pass on to future generations?

The importance of knowing your culture’s language. If we do not continue to speak our language, it will die.

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Because it’s good to know that not all people are the same yet we can tend to have similarities within our different cultures.

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

Our goal with Te Fare O Tamatoa is to share as much knowledge as we can about Tahitian and Polynesian culture. I personally am still very limited in my knowledge, but whatever I can share, I will and in whatever way that I can.

Join Te Fare O Tamatoa, Northwest Folklife and Seattle Center in celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival, happening on Sunday, October 8, at Seattle Center. Witness the beauty of the Polynesian culture at Te Fare O Tamatoa’s performance at the Armory Court Stage from 4:15-5 PM.

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Music as a Cultural Portal: An Interview with Mako & Munjuru

Mako & Munjuru, a musical ensemble playing traditional Okinawan music, will be joining us at this year’s 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival, where they will perform special pieces while teaching us about the Okinawan culture they know and love! Wearing  beautifully tailored kimonos, Mako & Munjuru spread Okinawan music through playing traditional instruments:the sanshin and taiko. These songs not only preserve the traditional sound of Okinawan music—they also share stories of love, family and heritage. According to Mako, playing the music of her ancestors helps her feel a connection to her roots and the people who have come before her. That is the beauty of preserving our cultural arts.

We spoke with Mako to learn more about her work in preserving her culture through her music. Get to know her before you see her ensemble live at Seattle Children’s Festival on October 8!

Photo courtesy of Mako & Munjuru

How did Mako & Munjuru come to be?

I actually was performing alone for a while. I started playing out in the public for myself as a mean to learn more about my background.  Then it just led on to sharing and gathering a small number of us seeking the same. Then one day I thought of doing a group performance with some of us, which now Mako & Munjuru. Sometimes we are duo, trio or more.  The term munjuru is a word for ‘straw hat’ in Okinawan. There’s a dance piece with the same name and I always loved the dance and the symbolic meaning of the hat which is expressed in the dance.  

“Munjuru to me is my family & friends who’ll watch over each other.”

We are so excited for your performance at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! What is something our audiences can expect from your performance?

We are creating a program to share music and dance.  The audience will learn an easy song to sing with us; then learn the dance moves to dance all together. It will be a loads of fun!

As Mako & Munjuru is known to play and preserve traditional Okinawan music, what do you think is the most beautiful aspect of traditional Okinawan music?

Music is a part of life—everyone’s life in Okinawa in the past and now. Music is valued and needed in order to live for Okinawans. Our performance typically consists of rather old pieces; music from a few hundreds years old and some lyrics are poems which were written in about 15th century.  Those ancient melodies may sound very simple;  the expression might sound rather simple for those who understand but simplicity and complexity coexist, I think. So I feel it that it’s beautiful because it’s simple yet complex.

Can you teach us a little more about the traditional instruments that you use: the sanshin and taiko?

Sanshin is a 3-stringed fretless lute. The body is hollow inside and covered both front and back with a snake skin; no sound hole. When we perform in a small crowd, I love to show off my instruments since it’s got real python skin!  And also sanshin symbolizes the earth we live on.  The Okinawan taiko drum set consists of oodaiko, a big drum to create low deep sounding beats and shime’daiko, a smaller ones for the lighter higher pitched beats.

Do you think your understanding and love for the Okinawan culture has grown or changed in any way as you have continued to create music?

Yes. By continuing to learn and understand the traditional expression it really connects me with my grandparents, ancestors and even feels as though connected to ancestors few generations back. I understand more and more of our cultural beliefs and values, how my grandparents were the way they were and thought the way they thought. Also by learning the ancient pieces gives us the way to understand the Ryukyu Dynasty of the old days. It’s kind of like having a portal for me.

Why do you think it is important to preserve cultural traditions, and how does Mako & Munjuru play a role in that?

I think it’s more [of a privilege] to be able to [preserve our cultural tradition] rather than to see it as a task, at least for me. Some of the traditional music artists feel [that it is] important to preserve and to perpetuate the tradition to the next generations and I absolutely do not argue with that. I personally feel as though I’m put in a spot where I am so lucky to be able to share my knowledge.  And I’m lucky to have my mates to follow with [me].

What is your favorite aspect of our big neighborhood, Seattle?

I like Seattle for being such liberal and diverse neighborhood. I grew up in Hawaii my young adult age so it’s a bit different but a different diversity. Seattle is getting to be a big city but I’m hoping that the homey feeling will remain.  

In an interview you did with our friends at KEXP, you mentioned that one of your favorite aspects of being a part of Mako & Munjuru is when you can play Okinawan music to someone who has never heard its traditional music or may not even know where Okinawa is on the world map. What are some aspects of Okinawa or its culture that you’d like to share to our audiences?

In the States, especially in the mainland, Okinawa is known by “The Battle of Okinawa” so much.  Many people only know Okinawa relating to the war and or with US military bases. 

“So when I can give the idea to change the view of those  from the perspective of the natives, as native as I can be remotely, it gives me joy.”

I want to tell them “I grew up there and this is the Okinawa I know.”

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

As different cultures and languages are more widely exposed worldwide, I think introductions to a lot of different views in an earlier age is be vital to understanding and having acceptance. Or even not to feel so “different.” As for my music, I think the audience come to see [us] because they’re curious regardless of their age. If I get to fill that curiosity just a little bit, then I’m happy.   

Photo courtesy of Mako & Munjuru

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

As a part of my childhood in Okinawa, some things [were] just natural “Okinawan stuff” that I could do. Besides music, [an] easy thing is food. I cook and enjoy eating Okinawan food. That means sometimes making everything from scratch rather than going out to get a dish, since there’re no traditional Okinawan restaurant around here. I have to get the basic ingredients and make [it] from that. Then, I think about my grandparents’ life, surrounded by the ocean and working primarily as farmers to eat what they got from the earth and the sea.  

Come and celebrate the Okinawan culture through music with our friends Majo & Munjuru! Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 8, 2017 for the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival at Seattle Center! Mako & Munjuru will be performing at Loft 4 in the Armory from 1:00-1:45 PM. Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Introducing Drag Queen Story Time at Seattle Children’s Festival: A Chat with Aleksa Manila

This year, we welcome an exciting new program to the 4th Annual Seattle Children’s Festival: Drag Queen Story Time, which will be hosted by one of Seattle’s most respected drag personalities, Aleksa Manila. Sharing stories that celebrate inclusion, acceptance and diversity, Aleksa will provide a fun and lighthearted story time at the Festival for kids and their families from 10 – 10:45am.

Aleksa Manila is known for her extraordinary performances and her work within the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Since her move from Manila, Philippines to Seattle, Aleksa has been taking this city by storm, from performing and emceeing events big and small, to serving on various panels and educating youth on issues affecting our communities.

We had a chance to sit down with Aleksa to ask her about her proudest accomplishments, her love for community and what “folk life” means to her.

Photo courtesy of Aleksa Manila

Hello Ms. Aleksa Manila, thank you so much for talking to us today! How are you doing?

Hello! Thanks so much for this great opportunity to work with you. I am doing fabulously, staying busy with life and staying out of trouble.

Can you describe yourself in just five words?

Oh my…that might be a tough one. Let’s play: Drag Counselor, Political Provocateur, and (Fill-In-The-Blank)

We are so excited to have you at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival! This is our first year of having the Drag Queen Story Time program. What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?

I’m most excited about meeting new faces and families [at] the festival. And also looking forward to seeing diverse families celebrate with each other and be welcomed in their spaces.

Your list of accomplishments is incredible and ever-growing! You’re a performer, comedian, singer, activist and community leader. Of all of these feats, what is one of your proudest accomplishments thus far?

I have a  couple of proudest moments–the first one is when I won my very first drag title of Miss Gay Filipino in 2001. I won every category, except Miss Congeniality. But the moral of the story is that I was able to share this special moment with my mom who supports me wholeheartedly. Another special accomplishment is singing with the band, Pink Martini while I reigned as Miss Gay Seattle.

Along with that, alongside your work as a notable performer, you are very involved with the LGBTQ and Filipino communities. Can you explain why these communities are important to you? What vision do you have for these communities in the future?

As a genderqueer Filipino-American, I am part of diverse and intersectional communities. As a minority, it is very important and critical to unite and work together to ensure everyone has access to all resources regardless of our differences.

“My personal vision is that the unique and special attributes of my communities are celebrated and honored like others and not just positions of power.”

Why do you think it’s important to expose the youth to various cultures, identities, and people?

Children and youth are very insightful and definitely smarter than most adults assume them to be. I worked at Children’s Hospital for a number of years, and I saw firsthand the strength and resilience of the little ones. They were incredibly inspirational. If we merely shelter children from diverse cultures, identities and peoples–then they are unable to create memories, unable to practice discernment, unable to build coping mechanisms, and so on. This limits the power of the mind, it chains the human spirit, and ails the body.

In relation to that, how do you hope to do this through your program, Drag Queen Story Time?

My hopes and dreams with Drag Queen Story Time is that the little ones realize that pinks aren’t just meant for girls, that blues aren’t just for boys, and that they recognize there are more to just boys and girls–and they know that they have families that love them just the way they are–especially from this Princess Boy!

As a fellow Seattleite, what is your favorite aspect of this big neighborhood?

We’re very lucky to live in Seattle where diversity exists. Being in a coastal city that’s exposed to rich history of migration and honoring of Native American peoples and land is not very common. Just the other day, I heard the great, great, great grandson of Chief Seattle speak at a Mayor’s event at the Seattle Center…how cool is that? I am in awe of the natural and architectural landscape… from sunrise to sunset and under the moonlight, Seattle is breathtaking!

How have the combination of your identity, heritage and cultural background played a role in who you are today?

It challenges me to be a creative and compassionate creature! The legacy and history of my descendants influence and shape the person I am today and who I will be tomorrow. I often think about, “what would my mother think of my performances or how I present myself to my audience?”

What piece of wisdom can you give to our audiences who may still be in the process of understanding their self-identity?

“Self-love” is necessary for self-care and community. My mom always told me growing up, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” Surround yourself with peers, family (including chosen-family) and community who are smart and loving, and who inspire you to be the best person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”

How do you live out the meaning of “folk life”?

I’m just “me” and no more than I expect others to be themselves. “Folk” denotes tradition. 

“That said, as a community, let’s continue to create tradition. Tradition changes over time, let’s adapt to ensure everyone is included in our traditions.”

Her passion for performance and her commitment to making our communities and spaces inclusive for all are just some of the many reasons we are proud to call Aleksa Manila one of our neighbors in Our Big Neighborhood.

Join Northwest Folklife and Aleksa Manila in celebrating Our Big Neighborhood at this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival on Sunday, October 8 at the Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion and Armory. Drag Queen Story Time will take place at the Armory Loft 1B at 10 AM. Events like this are made possible by Friends of Folklife and your generous donations. See you there!

Aleksa Manila: Website

Seattle Children’s Festival: Website | Full Schedule | Facebook Event Page

Northwest Folklife Mythbusters #3

We sing, dance, play music, tell stories, teach our children, remember our ancestors, and share our meals all year long. Folk live life every day and Northwest Folklife creates opportunities for all of us all year long to celebrate, share, to be included and participate in the arts and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Northwest Folklife has programming all year long – the Seattle Children’s Festival in October, the Cultural Arts Series and Folklife Presents. We work all year to support many of the 23 regional community organizations who compose the Seattle Center Festal Cultural Festivals. We work all year with over 100 Folklife Community Coordinators representing the unique needs of each community, their artists and culture bearers, and their audiences. And all year long, we celebrate with different communities with Nights for Folklife events.  And of course, the annual Memorial Day Festival.

Join us, join each other – every day.

Tips for Exploring the Seattle Children’s Festival

CC0A7188Northwest Folklife’s Seattle Children’s Festival is just around the corner. This one-day, multi-cultural, inter-generational festival that “Celebrates Our Big Neighborhood” takes place on October 9th. Fun for all ages, bring your family and friends down to the Seattle Center for a day of singing, dancing creating, learning, and more!

Here’s how to be a smart traveler through the Festival while exploring a world of cultures:

  1. When you arrive at Seattle Center, stop by a Donation & Information Booth and pick up an Event Passport. Use this as a guide as you choose your adventure throughout the Festival.
  2. Browse through your Passport and find out what workshops, performances and crafts await you in the schedules listed! There is a plethora of cultural performances to see — if your group is feeling energized, find the next Movement Series workshop or Dance Workshop to get movin’.
  3. Ready to get your hands dirty? Stop by on of the TWO Discovery Zones at the Festival, both featuring a variety of hands-on workshops and activities. Looking to learn how to eat healthy? Stop by the Armory balcony and see Chef T teach about using the fruits and vegetables from y our neighborhood.
  4. Before you leave, don’t forget to turn in your Passport About Me page at the Donation & Information Booth for the chance to win a prize!
  5. Your donation makes the Folklife magic happen. Please give today and add your color to the Giving Gateway! Suggested donation is $10 per person, $20 per family. Or visit

Folklife is the everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation.  Inspire a Child’s Cultural IQ: Give Kids the Gift of Community.  Thank you!  It’s because of you and our sponsors that we can keep this festival FREE!  Even more importantly, that we nurture the artists, doers, and organizers of our community so we can come together and celebrate each other.  So, thank you!  You are very much a part of this!


Power 2 Give

Power 2 Give: Your Gift Doubles

Power 2 Give

Your gift brings Northwest Folklife’s Seattle Children’s Festival to life! Help fund performing artists and stages. Here is the stellar line-up, including Northwest Tap Connection, Kaze Taiko, The Miho and Diego Duo, and much more.  Your dollars go twice as far through the support of ArtsFund. Your gift will be matched during our Power 2 Give Campaign, an opportunity that is available until the Seattle Children’s Festival on Sunday, October 11. ArtsFund’s power2give/PugetSound is an online Cultural Marketplace connecting donors with projects they are passionate about. Ignite your passion for our big neighborhood, celebrate our Pacific Northwest Folklife, see our children grow.

Counting down to Sunday, October 11. Northwest Folklife staff pictured above are Corin Shelley-Reuss, Sheila Siden, Rob Townsend, Beth Schlansky (aka Squeeks =^+^=), Kelli Faryar, and Vanessa Snyder.

See you at the Seattle Children’s Festival!

Your Gift Makes Seattle Children's Festival Stages Come Alive!



Meet The Miho & Diego Duo

Miho and DiegoThe Miho & Diego Duo has been courageously blending Latin and Japanese musical traditions since 2006. Their primary goal is to encourage cultural understanding through music, and to achieve this they have developed a program that introduces youth to Japanese and South American folk music through participation and interactive activities. Miho & Diego found great joy in exploring and mastering the musical traditions of their own countries and feel it is a wonderful tool to stay connected to their roots even after leaving their homes. It is from this joy that the concept of this program is derived; to encourage participants, whether born in or outside of the United States, to begin to discover and explore their own heritage.

Both accomplished musicians, they came together after years of admiring each other’s work and discovering that their sounds could be combined to make something genuinely new and unique. Dr. Miho Takekawa graduated from Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, is currently the percussion instructor at Pacific Lutheran University and is currently a doctoral candidate in percussion performance at the University of Washington. Diego Coy was born in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, and was former musical director of “Fundacion Viva La Musica” and “Fundacion Funmusica,” and is currently exploring and mastering the musical traditions of his own native culture. Together, this talented duo introduces their distinctive warm native music and encourage the audience to participate by joining them in singing in both Japanese and Spanish as well as body percussion. Since Miho & Diego understand the important of cultural awareness and believe music is a key component, every free chance they get they like to go out and support their local musician friends at different shows and events!

As immigrant artists, Miho and Diego designed a program called, “Musical Trip,” which is centered on familiarizing children with different cultures and ways of life at very young ages in the hope of eliminating that harmful fear before it has a chance to take root and grow. In order to explore and expand the appreciation of alternative cultures through music, Miho and Diego continue to improve their own cultural awareness through extensive research, participation in the activities of various communities and schools, and expanding their connections, repertoire, and collection of instruments by learning from and associating with the natives of other countries.

At this year’s Seattle Children’s Festival, kids and families will participate in a workshop filled with multi-cultural experience, language education and laughter! This an award-winning musical education program for preschool through K-2 students is designed to have children understand different cultures and languages by introducing a new genre of music. Discover songs from Latin America, Japan and other countries accompanied by a wonderful array of instruments including Andean bamboo flutes, the marimba and percussions; however you want to make sure to stick around for the whole program, because the real magic happens when this duo teaches the audience how to use their own body as a musical instrument like body percussions!

The Miho & Diego Duo performs frequently for the King County Library System and the Seattle Public Library System, but you don’t have to wait because, you can catch them at this year’s 2nd annual Seattle Children’s Festival held on Sunday, October 11th in the Armory building Loft 4!

Who Is Sunshine Music Together?


Sunshine Music Together provides the greater Seattle community with music classes for babies and toddlers, introducing them to the wonder and beauty of musical sounds at a very early age. What lucky babies, we say!

Get to know Sunshine Music Together a little more in the below Q&A! They will be sharing their songs and good times with us at the 2nd Annual Seattle Children’s Festival again this year, from 10:45 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. in the Loft 4 venue. Parents, Caregivers, and little ones welcome and encouraged!

What will audiences experience from you at the Seattle Children’s Festival?

Community family music making! We will be encouraging caregivers with their children to participate enthusiastically in our program of songs, movement and chant activities.  We’ll be encouraging caregivers to be wonderful music making role models for their children – children learn a love of music and the disposition to be life long music makers by watching the adults in their lives model music making with enjoyment and enthusiasm! And because very young children instinctively respond to and imitate their loved ones, the active participation of parents and caregivers – regardless of their musical ability – is an essential part of the rich musical environment we create. Music Together parents discover what a powerful role model they are for their child, just by having fun with the music themselves! We will be helping grown ups to relax, find their inner silliness and enjoy making music right along with their kids.

Is there a specific age recommendation? Should parents and kids come?

Music Together is a parent/child based music development program for children aged birth to five years old and the adults in their lives who love them!

Were you at last year’s Seattle Children’s Festival? If so, what was the experience like for you?

Yes!  We absolutely loved the idea of an event that introduced parents and children to the joy of music making and the arts!  We’re huge advocates of music development during a child’s primary years and wanted to share and contribute any way we could for the benefit of our community!  We loved being a part of Seattle’s Children Festival from the beginning!

What is your connection to Northwest Folklife?

Initially we learned of Northwest Folklife through one of our fabulous teachers, Lara Clark, who was on the board of Northwest Folklife. She initially was the one who brought us all to it.  We have done events to benefit Northwest Folklife in the past and will again in the future.

What kinds of music/arts/performance/entertainment do you typically seek out around Seattle or the Pacific Northwest? Any recommendations?

Everything!  We love the theatre, ballet, symphony, concerts – Seattle and the Greater Puget Sound area is rich with the arts!  Seattle Children’s Theatre, 5th Ave, STG (Seattle Theatre Group), the Paramount.  Concerts at Chateau Ste Michelle, Marymoor – Take advantage of it all!

What does Folklife mean to you?

A communal and universal celebration of the arts in Seattle!  A huge sampling of various cultures in the arts coming together in one place!

What’s next for you after Seattle Children’s Festival?

We will continue with our mission to spread the joy and benefits of family music making to our communities!  We’ll be celebrating our 10th year of doing just this in 2016!


Learn more and connect with Sunshine Music Together here and join their conversation on Facebook.