What’s Happening May 26-June 1

When you hear “folk,” you may think of banjos or Bob Dylan. But for the people behind Seattle’s Northwest Folklife Festival, the word describes something bigger: cultural traditions like art, food and music that evolve as they’re passed down through generations.

Visitors keep returning to the 52-year-old festival, which has historically drawn a quarter-million attendees, partially because it reminds them that they’re “a part of something that’s much older than any one of us,” said Benjamin Hunter, Folklife’s artistic director. 

The arts festival, May 26-29 in Seattle Center, celebrates the breadth of traditions, art forms and heritages in the Pacific Northwest. This year, around 3,500 people are expected to participate in about 470 performances by groups including the Japanese Koto Club, the Emerald Ballet Academy and the Tanzanian entertainment group Wanne Star, Hunter said. As well as watching the magic onstage, festivalgoers can participate in singalongs, dance parties and lessons, jam sessions, workshops and more, plus browse artisan vendor booths and food stalls. 

Northwest Folklife 2023

The arts festival runs from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday at the Seattle Center (305 Harrison St., Seattle). Find the complete schedule of performers and activities at nwfolklife.org.

This year’s theme, “lagom” (a Swedish word translating to “not too much, not too little” or “just the right amount”), follows last year’s “metamorphosis” and the period of intense change induced by the pandemic. The 2023 theme reflects how “after a metamorphosis, you have to refind your balance,” Hunter said. 

The concept of balance and checking in with your environment after emerging from a big disruption also lets Folklife focus more on people’s relationship with the earth, he said. 


This year, the festival is piloting the Kuleana Corridor. Named for the Hawaiian term that loosely translates to “responsibility,” the space highlights sustainable and healthy food production, with groups like Nurturing Roots Farm and City Fruit providing activities and information.

Also new to the festival this year is Threads of the People, a mix of fashion shows, workshops, booths, displays and material swaps that explores the ties between fashion and culture. After debuting in 2022, The Maker’s Space — a series of booths with hands-on activities like origami, sewing and ceramics — is back for another round. 

With so much going on, festivalgoers understandably like to plan out their stops. But Hunter recommends that, for at least part of your Folklife visit, you “relinquish yourself of any thought that you need to be anywhere and just wander.”

“See what things open your eyes to new ideas and new sounds and new sights,” he said. “That’s what I hope people get out of this festival; not just to come see their friends but to see something they’ve never seen before, and to let that wash over them.”

For those who can’t make it in person, there are three ways to experience the festival virtually: a channel showing the films being featured in SIFF Cinema in person, a livestream capturing the action on the Mural Amphitheatre stage and prerecorded videos of musical performances, poetry, readings, interviews and more. 

Northwest Folklife Festival runs from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday at the Seattle Center (305 Harrison St., Seattle). Learn more and find the complete schedule of performers and activities at nwfolklife.org


Memorial Day events

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday, May 29, here are ways to honor it in the Puget Sound area. 

Edmonds College Memorial Day Ceremony — May 25

This Edmonds College ceremony honors people connected to the campus directly or indirectly through loved ones who have served in the armed forces, all well as other veterans. It starts at 2 p.m. at Black Box Theatre, and continues at 3 p.m. at Edmonds College’s “Boots to Books” monument. 20310 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood; st.news/edmonds-college-memorial-day

Memorial Day History Walking Tours — May 27-29

Organized by public history organization Civil War Seattle, these walking tours will take visitors through the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery to learn about the history of early Memorial Day in Seattle. Tour time options vary by day. Book online; $25. 1200 E. Howe St., Seattle; civilwarseattle.com/tours

Museum of Flight’s Memorial Day Ceremony — May 29

The Museum of Flight’s ceremony includes music from the Boeing Employee Concert Band, a keynote address from U.S. Marine veteran Michael Reagan and a presentation on The Fallen Heroes Project, which creates portraits of late veterans free of charge for their families. 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The event is free with museum admission. Buy museum tickets online; $26/general admission, with various discounts available. 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle; st.news/museum-memorial-day

Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Day Service — May 29

Nisei Veterans Committee, dedicated to preserving and honoring Japanese American legacies, has held a Memorial Day service since 1964. Participants will gather at the Nisei War Memorial Monument in Lake View Cemetery for prayers and meditations from Christian and Buddhist faiths, a keynote speech and a presentation of floral wreaths. 10-11 a.m. 1554 15th Ave. E., Seattle; nvcfoundation.org

What else is happening

Here are some other events happening May 26-June 1 in the Puget Sound area. If you would like to submit an event for consideration, please email your event details to weekend@seattletimes.com.


Madaraka Festival — May 26

After stopping in New York, Atlanta and Dallas, this concert celebrating African and African American culture will arrive in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. Local performers like Seattle’s DJ Afreesha and the Tacoma Refugee Choir will join the African artists in the show. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the festival begins at 7 p.m. Buy tickets online; $45-$105. 200 University St., Seattle; madarakafestival.com

BEGIN AGAIN — May 26-28

Contemporary dance company Bennyroyce Dance is putting on this show about letting go and reinventing as we head into a post-pandemic future. As well as dance, the piece uses props and video projections to prompt reflection and dialogue. Audience members have the option to purchase VIP tickets, which include a preperformance reception, drinks, priority seating and the chance to mingle with choreographer Bennyroyce Royon. Buy tickets online; $35 for general admission, $18 for student/senior/military and $55 for VIP. 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Seattle; st.news/begin-again

Fjord Fest — May 27-28

Hungry seafood lovers convene at this celebration of Hood Canal Spot Shrimp and other local seafood (previously called “ShrimpFest”). In addition to eating, there’ll be rides, crafts and other family-friendly activities. The festival happens in Brinnon, a few hours’ drive from Seattle. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Buy tickets online; $10 for one day or $15 for both days. Active military and veterans and kids 12 and younger are free. 251 Hjelvicks Road, Brinnon; fjordfest.org

Future File

Photofest — June 2-4

Learn from presentations and workshops on topics like street photography and long-term documentary work, and shop for cameras, lenses and other gear at this annual gathering. Presenters include travel photographer John Greengo and ambassadors from brands like Nikon and Sony. Activity times vary throughout the day. Registering online is encouraged; free. 811 Republican St., Seattle; glazerscamera.com/pages/photofest2023

Pride in the Park — June 3

Kick off Pride month at Volunteer Park with live performances, dancing, local nonprofit booths, queer vendors, food trucks, Drag Queen Storytime and more. Noon-7 p.m. Free. 1247 15th Ave. E., Seattle; seattlepride.org

Point Defiance Flower & Garden Festival — June 3-4

Embrace summer with this festival of garden tours, interactive garden exhibits, live music, food, and workshops and lectures to help with your own gardening ventures. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on June 3, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on June 4. Buy tickets online; prices vary. Some parts of the festival, such as the Vendor Village and Tacoma Farmers Market, have free admission. A $12 basic festival pass includes entry to lectures and demonstrations. Some parts of the festival, such as tours, have additional costs. 5400 N. Pearl St., Tacoma; metroparkstacoma.org