Seattle’s Memorial Day tradition: Northwest Folklife Festival

Folklife–it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s cooler.

At this weekend’s Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, zydeco meets storytelling meets taiko drumming. When it comes down to it, folklife just means eclectic, spirited music and art.

And if by chance you run into an act that you don’t like, just follow the advice that someone gave me: keep moving until you find one that you do. There are as many as 15 groups performing at the same time (not counting buskers).

Sure, the big stages may have the microphones and bench-seating, but my favorites are the individual buskers lining the paths–oh, every 20 feet. Move from group to group–guitarists and washboard-players and standing bassists gather so organically that you don’t know if they’re practicing or actually performing. And they just seem to be having fun. To quote the first volunteer I met, that’s what the festival is all about.

The 38th annual festival started yesterday and will continue over the Memorial Day weekend through Monday. It spans the grounds of the Seattle Center, so be prepared for a day of walking to check out all of the music and food and crafts. It’s technically free of charge, but the suggested $10 donation is well worth supporting local music.