Thousands of people flock to Seattle Center every Memorial Day weekend for the Northwest Folklife Festival. A tradition in the Emerald City since 1971, the four-day event is now the largest free arts festival in the United States.

The Northwest Folklife Festival features ethnic, folk, and traditional arts, crafts, and music. The festival  draws an estimated 250,000 visitors and 6,000 performers every single year.

Northwest Folklife Festival

Admission to the event is free, but a donation is encouraged. When Tove and I checked out the festival, volunteers at the entrance asked for a $10 donation, but they weren’t pushy about it. You might also want to have some cash on hand to tip the side performers at the festival (if you want to).

Speaking of performers at the Northwest Folklife Festival, Tove and I watched bands play on the main stages and off them. We also spotted jugglers, dancers, and even a guy swallowing swords (which was easily the most jaw dropping thing we saw).

Northwest Folklife Festival

Attendees can even participate in the Northwest Folklife Festival fun. There was a music school (called an “instrument petting zoo”), square dancing lessons and a percussion workshop. It sounds like a lot to take in, but you can simply grab a program at the entrance to help you figure everything out.

I think there’s a bad reputation that comes with the Northwest Folklife Festival. When I asked people if the event was worth checking out, several people told me that it wasn’t. I heard complaints about marijuana, “hippies” and even shootings. But we see it as a very family friendly event. There were tons of kids running around and having a great time.

As with any festival, there are a bunch of vendors at the Northwest Folklife Festival. You can find any type of food you want (gyros, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, etc.), and also people selling anything from clothes, to jewelry to bathtubs. I even saw a few random people sitting on the curb selling their own handmade goods.

Northwest Folklife Festival

Before we checked out the Northwest Folklife Festival, everyone said the event supposedly wasn’t for everyone. I beg to differ (unless you have no interest in folk music, etc.). From what Tove and I saw, the festival is great for folks old, young and anywhere in-between. Sure, it might not be what you encounter every day, but there’s no harm in stepping outside the box. Plus, it’s free entertainment on a holiday weekend. How can you beat that?

Have you ever gone to the Northwest Folklife Festival? What do you think of the event? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out Seattle Bloggers for more great Memorial Day weekend events around the Emerald City.