Despite its 2013 cultural focus on the labor history of Washington State, the 42nd annual Northwest Folklife Festival was not about work but mostly about play on opening day.
Taking advantage of lighter crowds and mostly sunny weather Friday, festival-goers celebrated the first day of the four-day festival at Seattle Center by browsing arts and crafts booths, sampling ethnic foods, listening to live music and dancing to contra tunes at Warren’s Roadhouse at Fisher Pavilion. (View a photo gallery here.)
For the third year in a row, Martin McClure drove up from Portland, Ore., to dance and hang out at Warren’s Roadhouse, where dozens of dancers moved and grooved to the “shrewd and knavish sprites” of Mad Robin, featuring caller Stacy Rose, early in the afternoon.
“Contra dancing is really easy to pick up because the basics are pretty simple,” McClure said.
“And you meet a lot of different people. You smile at them, and they smile back. You get to move and get a little sweaty and get some good exercise and hear some great music while you’re doing it. There’s nothing to not like about it.”
At the Fisher Green Stage, another festival hot spot, banjo-and-clarinet duo Professor Gall played “steam-punk folk-jazz” for a laid-back crowd sprawled on the lawn.
A steady stream of visitors strolled through Dusty Strings’ Instrument Petting Zoo, where hammered dulcimer, harp and ukulele were on display for all to fondle. The most popular?
“I think the ukulele,” teacher Steve Einhorn said. “It has four strings, it’s easy to play and it’s very affordable.”
Philip Boulding of Seattle’s Magical Strings, a family Celtic music group known for its annual yuletide concerts, was celebrating his third decade at the festival.
“I’ve seen two new generations of people grow up with Folklife,” he said from his booth at the crafts walkway.
“I think it brings a vital and important element to society, especially to young people.”
Other opening-day highlights included a gospel celebration featuring the Total Experience Gospel Choir at the Bagley Wright Theatre, a Bollywood dance show at Exhibition Hall, a Groove Train dance party at Mural Amphitheatre; and a Fin Records showcase featuring The Lures, Davidson Hart Kingsberry, Low Hums and Red Jacket Mine at the Fountain Lawn Stage.
Folklife continues through Monday, with the gates opening daily at 11 a.m. For highlights, refer to this list.