The Northwest Folklife Festival brings together up to 250,000 people in celebration of the diversity of the Pacific Northwest. This year’s Memorial Day weekend was a vibrant display of the communities that make up Washington and a wonderful chance to immerse yourself and engage with those communities. NWFLF is located in Seattle Center and shares this space with Festál, which celebrated 20 years this year!
Festál started with the mission of making the center of Seattle a place to “celebrate who we are as Seattleites, and also a way to learn about our neighbors and to learn from our neighbors.” Cultural equity is of utmost importance to Festál. Not wanting programming based on diversity to become “tokenized,” Festál requires “the participation and guidance of the community itself… putting each event together of and for their own community.”
With this shared space and distinction in the mission and purpose, NWFLF and Festál have once again created an inclusive environment for learning, sharing, thoughtful engagement and celebration of arts and cultures from all around the world that reside right here in Washington.
Although there were more than 5,000 performers, the draw for many foodies was the spread of savory, sweet, spicy and overall spectacular food vendors that grace the festival each year. Your taste buds can take a tour of Belizean food made from scratch, Caribbean Cuisine, authentic northeast African Coastal cuisine from the Horn of Africa, Lebanese Cuisine at Lajitana, Polish cuisine at Taste of Poland and so many more! One attendee explained how she loved all that NWFLF had to offer but could spend all day just trying all of the culturally distinct food available. Good thing the festival is four days long!
There is so much to taste, see and do it’s easy to see how someone could get easily roped into just one aspect of the festival, including the smallest of attendees. The Discovery Zone is full of performances and activities sure to spark those happy laughs, creative cognition and mature reception of everything that kids are exposed to over the weekend. With Creative Kidz Bollywood performances, children’s flamenco dances and so much more all across the festival, everyone young in age and spirit was smiling ear to elephant ear.
However, this year the festival’s future is on the line. The festival has always been put on free of charge to the public so to “remove any economic barriers and ensure that everyone can experience and share in cultural traditions,” but this year attendees were asked to support the festival with donations at the entrance in an attempt at raising $350,000 so that the cyclical nature of learning, growing and accepting the beauty of the unknown could continue for years to come. NWFLF is a staple not only to Seattle but to the Pacific Northwest. People travel from all over to perform and attend one or all four days of freedom of expression and cultural acceptance that is proudly showcased in Seattle Center and now it is time to give back.
After all these years of attendance and admiration, DONATE to a festival that has inadvertently combated aggressive bigotry and repressive ignorance for decades through exposure to culturally equitable engagement. Being able to see groups like Batucada Yemanja with their Brazilian Samba and Choro, music and dance celebrations of indigenous tribes and local staples like the Massive Monkees with their Hip Hop flavor is exactly what we need in a time of such polarity.
Become a friend of Folklife so that we can all enjoy what NWFLF has to offer for decades to come.