Northwest Folklife

Our Story

Since 1972, the Northwest Folklife Festival has brought a celebration of diversity and tradition to the heart of Seattle. Our first program, the Northwest Folklife Festival, was created to celebrate all forms of cultural expression practiced in the Northwest. There are no headliners and all of the performers donate their performance. The festival is community-powered through donations, sponsorship and volunteers. There is no admission charge to attend, thanks to your donations!

Northwest Folklife has stimulated interest and activity in traditional arts in the Northwest. In 1999, Northwest Folklife was selected as a Local Legacy by the Library of Congress in celebration of the Library of Congress’ 200th Anniversary. The festival has become a major focal point for many traditional and ethnic performing groups and communities in its 50 years of existence. Over the years, the Festival has evolved to reflect the ever-growing number and diversity of communities that call the Northwest home. Featuring hip hop MCs, Irish cloggers, Middle Eastern dancers, bluegrass fiddlers, West African drummers, ska bands and more, 

Northwest Folklife has built an artistic outlet that artists and audiences look forward to each year. For over 30 years, we have presented what we call the Cultural Focus, a “festival within a festival” that features a Pacific Northwest community through special performances, panels, workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations, and activities.

Photo by Christopher Nelson

The first Folklife Festival presented over 300 performers to an enthusiastic audience over Memorial Day weekend, and was hailed as a successful and needed addition to Northwest arts programs. Today, the four-day festival attracts an audience of about 250,000 visitors and has over 6,000 volunteer performers and 800 volunteers. Visitors from all over the world come to Seattle Center to take part in the weekend’s activities, but the focus remains local–all performers hail from communities in the Northwest.