For many Puget Sound folk, Memorial Weekend means one thing: the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle.
The free festival, now in its 42nd year, celebrates all things folk: music, dancing, poetry and art from as many cultures as you can think of. But its not just a draw for the crowds who come to listen and watch it attracts plenty of local performers who want to be part of one of the biggest folk festivals in the country.
Among them are Olympia bands Sunshine and Irony, The Shivas, Grizzle Grazzle, plus a couple of Olympia fisherman poets and more and what they like best about Folklife is the chance to meet and share with other performers.
Its exciting, its fun, explains Julie Bennett, a percussionist with no fewer than four Oly-based bands playing this years Folklife: Celtic band Loch Dhu, the Contra Quartet and Olympia Volunteer String Band (both contradance bands), and a pick-up brass marching band. Its an opportunity to meet other musicians and share music we know, whether its common tunes or new ones.
Most of that transpires behind the scenes at jam sessions. Before, after and between the almost countless scheduled stage performances at Folklife are the jam sessions, where musicians who all volunteer their time to perform just sit back to play together and have fun.
Youre building connections, no matter what genre, says Bennett, who says most of the sessions happen in the musicians lounge by the Fischer Pavilion. It could be anything from bluegrass to Celtic to jazz to Quebecois you just dont know what youll hear, and thats the beauty of it.
Patrick Dixon, an Olympian whos into his third year performing fisherman poetry at Folklife as part of Fisher Poets on the Road, also likes the chance to meet other performers. He'll take the stage at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
I love the performances, he says, but a lot of my enjoyment of it comes from meeting up with friends I dont get to see much, and telling stories to each other.
Another thing Bennett likes about Folklife is that all shows are recorded and posted on the website for later listening which also is useful for audience members who dont quite make it around the Seattle Center to hear all their favorite acts.
The Northwest Folklife Festival runs 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday through Monday at the Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St., Seattle. Admission is by donation. See nwfolklife.org/festival for a complete schedule (also available as a mobile app).
Parking is difficult and expensive around the Seattle Center. You can take public transportation, or park at the South Renton Park and Ride (South Grady Way and Shattuck Avenue South) and take a King County Metro shuttle for $2.50 to the festival.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568