The Folklife Festival is May 22-25 at Seattle Center. (Christopher Nelson photo)

After 45 years, Folklife fest more than hippies with fiddles

Tomorrow is opening day of the 46th annual Northwest Folklife Festival.

The gathering had its start in 1972, a time when hippies played fiddles. Oh, wait, they still do.

But as the Folklife website notes in its list of festival myth-busters, it’s not all about those hippies from the early ’70s. In fact you won’t find a more diverse event in all of the Pacific Northwest. It’s about the music, dance, stories and arts of people of all cultures.

Sure, many of the quarter-million people who will attend during the course of this coming Memorial Day weekend will sport gray hair and be in the crowds watching those old fiddlers.

But when cultural traditions — Native American, Celtic and Croatian dances, for example — are passed down to the next generations, lots of young people are involved. In other words, be sure to catch the young fiddlers at the festival. That is what Folklife is all about.

An estimated 6,000 performers will come from around Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta to participate in the festival.

Notable acts this year include: Squirrel Butter, The Skablins, Fabulous Roof Shakers, Vela Luka Croatian Ensemble, Mossyback Morris Men, Grace Love, The Warren G. Hardings, Total Experience Gospel Choir, Northwest Scottish Fiddlers, Wes Weddell, Bailadores de Bronce, LeRoy Bell, Smilin’ Scandinavians, Show Brazil!, the Not-Its!, Clinton Fearon.

The independent, nonprofit festival offers free admission, but it depends heavily on donations. A donation of $50 makes you a Friend of Folklife. Learn more about supporting Folklife at

During Folklife, those who attend will find plenty of vendors selling interesting food and crafts.

Also, the Pacific Northwest Craft Beer Festival is a festival within the festival. Located next to the Back Porch Stage just outside of the KEXP Gathering Space, the beer fest is 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 27-28. For $25, you get 10 5-ounce tastings of beers from 10 breweries. Check out the list of beers at

Go early. Drink coffee while you wait for the first performances at 10 or 11 a.m. Plan to stay late. Learn more at

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