The fest received enough donations at the door over Memorial Day weekend to keep it going for another year.
Thanks to a surge in donations — and probably to four days of spectacular weather over Memorial Day weekend — the Northwest Folklife Festival will survive another year, according to Interim Executive Director Mark Crawford.
Before this year’s celebration, Northwest Folklife let patrons know that if they did not pony up $350,000 at the entrances to Seattle Center, there would be no 2018 festival. The festival does not charge admission.
“These are preliminary numbers, but the total was about $354,000. It’ll probably be a tiny nudge upwards, but fundamentally, this was a bull’s-eye. I think the message got across,” said Crawford on Wednesday.
Northwest Folklife’s annual budget is $1.3 million, with more than $300,000 of that coming from “Friends of Folklife” throughout the year. But donations at the gates have steadily decreased, said Crawford, even as expenses have gone up. Staffing is down to three full-time employees.
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With the 2018 festival guaranteed, Northwest Folklife can now move on to what Crawford called “phase two”: hiring a new executive director (former director Robert Townsend retired last year) and creating a 2018 budget. A new director should be in place by fall.
“Phase three is the board and staff creating a new vision for the next five years,” Crawford said. “This is the point where we say to the community, ‘This is where we want to go, are you with us?’ But for now, we’ve bought time. That’s a big win.”
The first Northwest Folklife Festival was presented at Seattle Center in 1972 and since then has offered a kaleidoscope of world culture, drawn from local communities. Apart from its small staff and a seasonal production crew, everyone involved, including performers, is a volunteer. After a half-million-dollar deficit emerged in 1998, Northwest Folklife began to emphasize that donations by patrons at the entrances to Seattle Center were necessary for the festival to survive.
“This was not a one-year emergency,” Crawford said.