Bumbershoot may be the grandaddy of all Seattle festivals, but the Northwest Folklife Festival is all grown up and not afraid to step all over grandpa’s lawn. In fact, I prefer Folklife for its laid back atmosphere of discovery – where else are you going to find Irish step dancers, middle school bands, bluegrass groups and reggae all together? And that barely scratches the surface. I also prefer it for its price: Free.

The Northwest Folklife Festival runs during Memorial Day weekend all over the grounds of the Seattle Center, starting Friday, May 22 and ending Monday, May 25.

It would be impossible to describe all of the performances that will be taking place over the four days of the festival, but I’m going to spend the next few days highlighting just a few interesting people, groups and happenings that make up the magic.

Seattle Raging Grannies
These ladies aren’t about to enter their twilight years quietly and are always worth seeing and hearing. “In the tradition of wise women elders, the mission of the Seattle Raging Grannies is to promote global peace, justice, and social and economic equality by raising public awareness through the medium of song and humor.” They will be performing in the Intiman Choral Courtyard on Sunday from 12:30 to 3:20 pm as part of the “Activist Songs Through the Ages” show and on Monday from 1:20 pm to 1:50 pm in the Center House Theatre.

Sarah Comer
Traditional fiddle playing is in great hands with Sarah Comer’s performance, ‘Young Hands, Old Fiddle Tunes.’ “She’s not just young fleet fingers; she has a real feel for the dynamics and drama, AND the history that make it make sense as music. She presented herself, and more importantly, the MUSIC really well at her show. I’m not really crazy about young people who can play a bunch of licks, but I’m terrifically impressed when someone knows so much music.” – Review of Sarah’s performance at Northwest Folklife 2008, by Chico Schwall

Summit K-12 Alternative School
My last shout out goes to my kids’ former school where students are required to learn dance. My daughter learned tap and my son learned swing. In 6th grade no less. Summit has been Seattle’s only public K-12 school but this is the last year for the school as it fell to the school closures axe, so this will be your last chance to witness how the arts in schools can transform kids and to show them a little love. They will have two performances at the Mural Amphitheatre on Friday, at 2:20 pm and 2:55 pm.

“One of the nation’s largest community arts festivals, the annual Memorial Day weekend celebration invites everyone to play, dance, sing, learn, taste, and participate! Participants enjoy hundreds of performances and interactive events.

Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day and will include concerts, dance parties, children’s activities, storytelling, merchants, food vendors and impromptu happenings of all kinds. Over 250,000 guests are expected to enjoy this quintessentially Seattle event that marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and the official kick-off event celebrating the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition centennial!”

Community Northwest Folklife Festival highlights: Raging Grannies, Sarah Comer and more