Bumbershoot is coming back. Though in what form remains to be seen.
Seattle Center officials have decided to continue their partnership with One Reel Productions and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture to produce the annual festival, with more details to come in mid-March, a spokesperson confirmed Friday.
The Seattle Center spokesperson did not specify what dates Bumbershoot will take place. Late last year, One Reel had posted on its Bumbershoot website that the festival would take place over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6. But the website no longer includes the date and instead says a festival announcement will be coming in spring 2020.
The future of the big arts-and-music festival had been in doubt since One Reel partner AEG Presents announced it would not renew its deal to produce the three-day event at Seattle Center.
“Work is underway to lay out a new way forward for the Bumbershoot festival,” a statement from Seattle Center said.
One Reel officials were not immediately available for comment Friday.
One Reel has been involved with the festival to some degree since 1972 and took over independent production duties in 1995.
AEG stepped in five years ago as a sublicensee and financial backer when the festival fell $900,000 in debt and began to see attendance declines. There was some question about AEG’s continued involvement before the 2019 event, and the loss of headliner Lizzo due to health issues didn’t help matters.
In recent years, there’s been debate about whether the event has grown too big, losing some of its local flavor in favor of a Coachella-style lineup and music-heavy focus.
The music festival scene has been something of a bloodbath in recent years with loss of attention span, rising costs and the sameness of the summer touring scene all contributing to a decline of the summer events over the last decade. While Coachella and a handful of others have thrived, others have shuttered, including Washington’s once-beloved Sasquatch Festival at the Gorge Amphitheater and Seattle’s Upstream.
Approaching its 50th anniversary, Bumbershoot has changed quite a bit since its founding in 1971 as the Mayor’s Arts Festival. Back then the budget was $25,000, the tickets were $3 and the atmosphere was more bohemian with a heavy dose of arts and culture mixed in with the music. More recently, the budget has been in the millions and tickets run about $220 for a weekend festival.
Information from Seattle Times archives was used in this report.