I finally managed to have my photos from the Folklife Festival in Seattle developed. I’ve posted a few of them, and I’ll take this opportunity to do a festival wrap-up post. I didn’t take as many photos as in previous years. This was largely due to the fact that it rained three out of the four days of the festival. It wasn’t pouring that whole time, but it was cloudy and dark, making the light pretty crappy for flash-free photography.
I guess I’ll start with what I was actually doing at the festival. This was my fourth year working as the festival’s Signage Coordinator. What that means is that I’m responsible for hanging signs and banners all over the campus of Seattle Center (where the Space Needle is). The pic at the left shows most of the preexisting signs — all the signs along the wall are stacked 4–8 deep. Every year, there are also a bunch of new signs and banners (which hadn’t yet arrived when I took the picture, to cover new and different venues and special one-year events or appearances. The first two years, I was pretty much on my own. In each of the last two years, I’ve had good help from Tahoma and one other person.
The nice thing about working signage is that most of my work is done by Saturday afternoon (the festival always starts on the Friday before Memorial Day, and runs through the Monday holiday). So, I get plenty of (paid) time to walk around and enjoy the festival. I have to carry a radio in case someone needs me, but it clips nicely to my camera bag.
I caught parts of quite a few shows. I saw a number of dance groups: tango, flamenco, salsa, Zimbabwean, Irish, belly, samba, etc. A number of these used canned music, but the few who used live musicians were the most interesting. I heard a wide variety of music (in no particular order): Taiko drumming, jazz, Irish traditional, punk, klezmer, rockabilly, gospel, Afro-pop, reggae, bluegrass, folk, etc. Some groups were quite good, some were ok, and some were just downright weird. One such group was a polka band who played nothing but Johnny Cash covers. I didn’t catch their name, which may be for the best.
Aside from what’s happening on the various stages (21 of them this year), there are always lots of interesting buskers distributed throughout the grounds. Since the festival doesn’t pay the performers (there’s also no required admission charge, just a suggested donation), alot of groups will set up on the sidewalk to make some money before or after their shows. There are also professional buskers who usually work downtown Seattle, groups or bands who aren’t actually playing at the festival, and high school (and sometimes younger) kids who want to make a few extra bucks. Most buskers are musicians, but there’s always a variety of interesting and bizarre performance art — human statues, human video games, acrobats, worm-eating, etc.
Folklife offers really good people-watching opportunities, as well. It being a free festival, people of all sorts show up. You see people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, socio-economic statuses, sexualities, and various other lifestyle choices. Whenever I tire of walking around, I’ll just stand or sit someplace and watch the crowd. That can provide hours of entertainment. One person who stands out in the crowd every year is Boe. I don’t know Boe’s whole story, but he volunteers for Folklife (during festival set-up) every year, and I think he did too much of something in the 60s. He always wears a brightly colored skirt, pastel scarves, and a bell around his waist. He can be seen at outdoor shows of all descriptions waving around bunches of his scarves, which he bungee-cords to each wrist. He’s bizarre, but he seems to always be having fun.
Well, that probably should have been split up into multiple posts, but I had to make up for posting almost nothing when I was actually in Seattle. Each of the pictures above links to a larger version of that particular pic, but you can see all my photos from this year’s festival here. Also, check out my galleries from past years: Folklife 2003 Folklife 2005. I worked the festival in 2004 also, but I got strep and mono part-way through and had to go home. So, no pictures from that year.