When Tirtza describes the Folklife Festival to people who have never experienced it, she tells them she feels like a kid in a candy store – four days, free activities and so much entertainment – all representative of the diverse cultural communities in the Pacific Northwest. She also tells people about her two “issues”- rushing across the grounds to see one of her favorite performers only to be distracted by a busker doing something amazing; and, going to a performance that doesn’t catch her interest right away but she quickly becomes captivated by. Although she is tempted to move on, she is intimidated by the number of performances to choose from and keeps her seat anyway, experiencing the spontaneity of it all.
Tirtza’s experience at Folklife is a true testament to her passion and love for the Festival. During her first Folklife Festival, she felt like a vacationer, excited by all of the new sights and sounds, but nevertheless, a guest at someone else’s event. This all changed when she ran into a friend from San Francisco who was working his volunteer shift. He explained how she could also volunteer, and wanting to support Folklife, Tirtza eagerly began volunteering at the Festival. “The joy we both experience at the Festival each and every year prompted us to contribute to its on-going success with not only our dollars, but our volunteer efforts as well.”
Tirtza and Barry have had many special moments at Folklife, including taking part in the Guinness Book of World Records Harmonica event playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for 13 minutes straight. Another exciting moment was when Tirtza was asked to lead Israeli Folk Dancing before a live band. She expected that kind of invitation in the Bay Area, where she resides, but not in Seattle! “We love Bernice and Rafi Maslan who are our host and hostess at Folklife every year. They open their home to us and treat us like family. We have known them for years through the folk dance community and their incredible love of Folklife has rubbed off on us.”
Although they no longer live in the Pacific Northwest, Barry and Tirtza always plan their year to include the Folklife Festival. “Folklife is so unique because it is a free Festival supported by the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, an incredible Board of Directors, and an amazing staff who all keep the Festival going. Tirtza and I have never found anything like this amazing event! We look forward to seeing the Festival continue to serve as a gathering for all ages, ethnic /religious groups and political affiliations. The variety of music and dance from the world over should serve as a shining example for communities around the country.”
One thing Barry and Tirtza wish everyone in the community knew about Folklife is its spontaneous and unexpected excitement. “Folklife is FUN! Every minute of every day at Folklife is a new and exciting experience. Whether a musician who has performed for half a century or a high school band is bouncing off the walls, everyone will expand their love of music and dance or even find a new interest or excitement.”
Joanna and Dale met in 1972. Their love for Northwest Folklife began in the early 70’s during the inaugural Festival days where they experienced a wide range of music, dance, crafts, and cultures. After deciding to tie the knot, Joanna and Dale wanted to include a piece of the Northwest Folklife Festival experience in their own wedding celebration. Their entertainment for the evening was a Contra band featuring Sherry Nevins, a local contra musician, and dancer to whom the couple was first introduced at the Folklife Festival. According to Dale, “many guests had no idea what contra dancing was, but by the time the last guests at our wedding celebration had been shooed out the door, they without a doubt knew, or at least now had some familiarity with it.”
Today, Dale and Joanna continue to attend the Northwest Folklife Festival and have made sure to keep the magic of Folklife alive by sharing the Festival experience with their family. Dale recalls that THE highlight of their Folklife experiences was watching their son and two grandchildren, now ages 2 and 5, contra dancing to Sherry Nevins’ band… the same band that had played at their wedding many years ago. Joanna continues to be committed to supporting the arts and believes in the power of giving, not only financially, but also through outreach and volunteering one’s time. “Folklife is one of the things that makes me proud to live in the Northwest and I want to see it continue to flourish and grow. Our region has a wonderful array of artistic and cultural communities and Folklife gives them a unique venue to share these cultural traditions and talents.”
Regarding Northwest Folklife’s future, Dale and Joanna hope there will be more stories like theirs for years to come. “Having Folklife not only be a celebration of the present, but also for future generations of families so they have their own stories to tell children and grandchildren; that, is what keeps Folklife alive and meaningful,” says Dale. Dale and Joanna consider it a privilege and a duty to offer what support they can to things that make them happy; most notably, ‘the arts.’ They are passionate about Northwest Folklife and other organizations that make the world – and the Pacific Northwest community – a better place to live. “The Folklife Festival is a time to reunite with friends, many of whom we only see once a year. It is where we meet, find out about travels, grandchildren, journeys taken… it is our community and it revives and refreshes us every time we attend.” They both hope to continue experiencing and enjoying what Folklife has brought into theirs and so many others’ lives since the early 70s.