Northwest Folklife Festival with Kids: 20 Picks, 7 Tips
"Northwest Folklife: It would be so much easier without all the folk," says a friend of mine about the wonderful, mammoth, 42-year-old festival that takes over the Seattle Center every Memorial Day weekend.
"All the folk" was exactly why I reached out to Folklife veterans for tips on how to make the most of the festival with kids in tow. Motivated partly by self-interest — I plan to bring my 3.5-year-old for the first time — I wanted strategies on how to navigate the sheer volume of the festival without overwhelming either of us (too much, anyway).
Below are top family picks; as you probably know, though, it's hard to find a non-family-friendly performance at Folklife, and kids will be as entertained by the buskers as the official performances. Make a plan, but wander, too! (Here's a link to the whole schedule; many local libraries will also have printed copies, which have a helpful icon for family performances.).
Top Folklife picks for kids and families
Family hands-on activities: Throughout the weekend, Folklife hosts a kid tent on Fisher Terrace with many terrific-sounding activities, including global crafts with Sponge, a milk carton derby, mosaic art, toy boat building, and (my personal favorite) family dances on Friday and Saturday morning. Also don't miss the instrument petting zoo on the east end of the Fisher Green.
Dance performances: Starting with a square dance aimed at young kids ages 6-12, and moving on to Bollywood and French country dances, the Armory Stage has fun participatory dances on Friday that kids will enjoy. (The Exhibition Hall will also feature lots of young performers throughout the morning.) Armory Stage, square dancing, 11 a.m.; Bollywood, 1 p.m.; French country dances 2 p.m.
High School Swing Dance: Some of the best youth bands around, including the award-winning Garfield High School Jazz Band and the Eckstein Middle School Sr. Jazz Band, play swing music, and give lessons and demos. Armory Stage, 3:45–6 p.m.
The Onlies: This terrific, up-and-coming group of 14-year-old musicians — who played the Moore Theatre earlier this month — perform everything from traditional Irish to original folk tunes, and will inspire young musicians with their fast-paced fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar work. Northwest Court Rooms, 7:20 p.m.
Bollywood Show: A great one for older kids: Six different groups, including students, bring the rhythms and colors of India alive. This was very popular in 2012; get there early. The International Dance Stage at the Exhibition Hall, 7–8:30 p.m.