Festivals, Events, & Celebrations
Look here for shorthand references and slang for Seattle-area festivals, events, and celebrations, including Bumbershoot, Folklife, Seafair, The Bite of Seattle, The Bassett Bash, Bon Odori, Fat Tuesday, Hempfest, Opening Day, Trolloween, The Tug Boat Races, First Thursday, The Spam Carving Contest, The Milk Carton Derby, and more.
- Arts Orbit: Held the first Saturday of every month, an art walk from noon to 5 on Capitol Hill that links up participating galleries, museums, and other art venues. For more information, call (206) 328-7158.
- The Basset Bash: Takes place at the end of March in Woodinville. $10.00 a dog to enter (Basset Hounds only). Free "basset-sitting" available to those who wish to make the rounds of the local watering holes. Takes place in conjunction with Woodinville's All Fools' Day Parade, which takes place on the last Saturday before April 1st. Here's a good Basset Bash page with some nice pics of some of the entrants.
- The Bear Festival: The McCleary Bear Festival, now in its 45th year, held on the second weekend of July. Where to go if you want to savour a bear stew lunch, without having to shoot the bear yourself. Also features a parade, softball tournament, 10k road race, soap box derby, lawnmover race, street dance, carnival, and food and crafts bazaar. For some pics, see the McCleary Bear Festival site.
- The Bite: The Bite of Seattle. A lot of people go to Bumbershoot or Folklife just for the food. So, why not a festival for just food. That's the basic idea behind the Bite, which takes place on the third weekend of July at the Center. It seems like practically every restaurant in town shows up and sets up a booth. Instead of music with some food on the side, you've got food with music on the side. The Bite has been so successful, it now has imitators--the Taste of Tacoma (on the first weekend in July at Point Defiance Park), the Taste of Edmonds (on the second weekend in August), the Bite of San Juan, a.k.a., The Pig War Picnic (on the first Saturday of July at the San Juan Historical Museum, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island), and last, but not least, the Nibble of Des Moines (on the first weekend in September at the Des Moines Marina). For an article on the 2003 Bite, see Flock to Bite of Seattle for a grazing extravaganza.
- The Blackberry Festival: Held Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend in Bremerton in celebration of one of the Northwest's hardier non-native invader species. A free alternative to Bumbershoot, adjacent to the ferry dock.
- Bon Odori: Local Japanese Buddhist festival, held the third weekend in July at the Seattle Buddhist Temple, 1427 S. Main St., just east from the International District. For information, call (206) 329-0800.
- Bumbershoot: Seattle's end-of-summer festival held every Labor Day weekend at the Seattle Center. While Bumbershoot was originally touted as an arts celebration (it replaced the Northwest Annual, for one thing), and there is still a good deal of art on display at the festival, it has long since become largely music festival featuring many popular groups and performers (as well as more obscure ones, as well). Bumbershoot tends to be a good deal raucous than Folklife, which kicks off the summer over the Memorial Day weekend, undoubtedly due to its focus on popular and rock music, versus Folklife's emphasis on folk, bluegrass, and ethnic music. If you go, be prepared for quite a crunch (heap big crowd). Bumbershoot, upper case, is not to be confused here with "bumbershoot," lower case, which is simply an umbrella. Northwesterners, it should be noted, are more partial to hats than umbrellas, knowing that umbrellas don't last long here, tending to get blown inside out. Look under an umbrella, in other words, and you're liable to find a Californian.
- Chinese New Year: The Lunar New Year Celebration, which takes place in 2002 on February 16, 2002, from noon to 6 p.m., in combination with the Year of the Horse Celebration, at the Union Station Great Hall (401 S. Jackson). Admission is free. The word "Chinese" is a bit of a misnomer, in that the same New Year's celebration is observed by a number of different Asian cultures. Events: Lion Dance starts at 12 noon, followed by Wushu & Tai Chi performances, Japanese Taiko drumming, and traditional Chinese, Fillipino and Taiwanese aboriginal dance. Food samples available from local restaurants with food tickets (only $2.00/ticket).
Morris Graves: Flower Paintings: by Theodore F. Wolff / Hardcover / Published 1994. Price: $27.96 (30% discount) at Amazon.com. Graves is the quintessential Northwest artist.
- The Driftwood Fair: Driftwood Show and Artisan Fair at Grayland Community Hall, Grayland. The event to go to see glass float collections and driftwood art. Was held March 20-21 in 2004. See the Driftwood Show home page for next year's dates when announced. Driftwood art has a long history on the coast -- I remember going to driftwood art shows when I was a kid down in Aberdeen back in the late 50's.
- The Duck Dodge: A sailboat race held Tuesday nights on Lake Union, I'm told. The name of the race comes from it originally being a real duck dodge: if a duck had to dodge a boat (rather than the boat dodging the duck), the boat had to do a 360 degree turn as a penalty. The winner was the one who managed to cross the lake while disturbing the fewest number of ducks. The winner got to tow a duck decoy until the next week's race. These days, however, the Duck Dodge is just a regular race, held each Tuesday during the season, with the winner getting a gold, silver, or bronze sticker in the shape of a duck, depending on their place in the race. The Duck Dodge season for 2004 starts on May 18. For more info, see The Official DUCK DODGE of Lake Union Home Page. See also The Official DUCK DODGE Racers dance, drink, dress up and dodge ducks at Seattle's silliest sailing classic from Pacific Northwest Magazine.
- The Duck Island Challenge: An event open to all comers held Tuesday nights by the Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club on Green Lake from April through October(?). Kayak and canoe time trials are run from the Green Lake Small Craft Center to Duck Island (and back?). Equipment is available free of charge. All you have to do is show up at the Boat House at 6:15 p.m. For more info, contact the Seattle Canoe and Kayak Club.
- Evergreen State Fair: Held in Monroe since 1908, and in its present location (Evergreen State Fairgrounds) since 1948. Held from August 24th to September 4th (in 2006). For more info, see The Evergreen State Fair site. Not to be confused with The Puyallup Fair, formerly called the Western Washington Fair.
- Fat Tuesday: What Seattle's Mardi Gras celebration used to be called. They changed its name for the 2001 celebration, with the obvious intention of establishing the same kind of booze-and-tits fest as New Orleans' Mardi Gras has turned into and got more than they bargained for, with sexual assaults and gang violence shown live on TV, with one celebrant blugeoned and trampled to death when trying to do what the police refused to do, come to the assistance of a woman who was being assaulted by a gang of attackers. One person was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 18 years. The City of Seattle paid a settlement of $1.7 million to the family of the victim, Kristopher Kime, for the failure of the Seattle Police to provide any protection to its citizens (they were ordered to stand by and do nothing). They cancelled any official event for the following year, but an unofficial celebration still occurs. For more info, see Fat Tuesday ends in rioting and tear gas and Mother of man killed by Fat Tuesday mob scolds police, both from the Seattle P-I.
- First Thursday: The art galleries in Pioneer Square some years back came up with the bright idea to coordinate their show openings, designating the first Thursday of the month as the date for such events. Art fans can make the rounds of the openings for many different art shows, all in a single evening, each and every month. Most galleries in Pioneer Square and downtown Seattle participate. The Seattle Art Museum is also free on First Thursday. More recently, an Art in the Park event has also been organized on the first thursday of the month, which is a city-organized public market of original art held in Occidental Park, the primary rationale of which is to rope-in all of the ad-hoc unlicensed art-selling that has been clogging up city streets on First Thursday evenings. Gallery owners have been quite skeptical, worried that it will detract from the real purpose of First Thursday (an art walk, rather than an open art market). For details, see see Pioneer Square art market leaves gallery owners wary from the Seattle Times. For more info on First Thursday, see the First Thursday page from NWSource.
Iridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art: by Deloris Tarzan Ament and Mary Randlett (Photographs) / Textbook Binding / Published 2002. Price: $28.00 (30% discount) at Amazon.com. Deloris Tarzan Ament was art critic for the Seattle Times from 1971 to 1995.
- Folklife: The Northwest Folklife Festival. Yes, one word, not two. Folklife takes place over the Memorial Day weekend at the Center, kicking off Seattle's summer. Features a gadzillion different performers, exhibits, craft booths, lots of food, and much, much more. I remember going to the very first Folklife, when it was about 1/10th its current size. And, come to think of it, the crowd was about 1/20th the size of the current Folklife crowds. Has almost become as popular as Bumbershoot, which may not be such a good thing.
- Head of the Lake: A series of crew races held at the end of October, I believe, from the head of Lake Union through the Mountlake Cut to Lake Washington, which mark the end of the crew racing season.
- Hempfest: A celebration of all things hemp, held on the third Sunday of August at Myrtal Edwards Park on Elliott Bay. This is not now the wild and wooly affair it may have been in the past, due to rather heavy police enforcement--at Hempfest 98, some 20 revelers were cited for possession and removed from the park, while two people were put under felony arrest for drug dealing. The days of openly flaunting the law (Hippy Hill II?) would seem to be over. For an article on Hempfest 2000, see Hempfest 2000 heavy on toke-lore. For an article on Hempfest 3000, see Political aroma detected at Hempfest: I-75 supporters find backing.
- The Highland Games: The Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering. Held at the King County Fairgrounds in Enumclaw, the last weekend in July. If you like bagpipes or guys in kilts, this is the event to go to. The sixth-oldest gathering of its type in the nation, the Highland Games features dancing and piping competitions, as well as various "heavy events," including the caber toss, sheaf toss, and other forms of heavy weight throwing and tossing. For further info, see the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering home page.
- The Kite Festival: The Washington State International Kite Festival on the Long Beach Peninsula. The main kite festival hereabouts, but not the only one. Other kite festivals include the Ocean Shores International Kite Challenge, Westport Windriders Kite Festival, Up Your Wind Kite Festival (Pacific Beach), Whidbey International Sport Kite Championship, among others -- for a calendar of these and other kite flying events and festivals, see the Pierce County Kitefliers Association's Upcoming events page.
- The Milk Carton Derby: Held at Green Lake as part of Seafair, a race, open to all milk drinkers, between boats built from empty milk cartons. Also has a cow milking contest. For an article on last year's derby, see Seafair milk carton derby captains whey in.
- Opening Day: The Opening Day Boat Parade, taking place on the first Saturday of May and which marks the opening of the boating season in Seattle. The parade proceeds from Portage Bay through Mountlake Cut to Lake Washington. Lately, the actual boat parade has been preceded by an invitational crew race, the Windemere Cup, pitting the U-Dub crew against a major international crew (the Chinese, Russians, Australians, etc.). For an article on last year's Opening Day, see Park on Opening Day? Forget it.
- The Outdoor Cinema: Held in a parking lot across from the Redhook Trolleyman Pub at N. 35th and Phinney Ave., each Saturday from June 24 through August 30 (for 2004). Bring your own seating -- lowback chairs and bean bags are recommended. Sofas and other wacky seating are also encouraged, although highback chairs may be directed to the back (to not block others' views). Suggested donation if $5.00. For more information, including a schedule of movies to be shown, see the Seattle Outdoor Cinema home page.
- OysterFest: The West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship and Washington State Seafood Festival, held the first weekend in October, at the county fairgrounds just outside Shelton. Features oyster shucking contests, seafood cook-offs, and more.
- The Naked Film Festival: The Naked Freedom Film Festival, held for the first time May 15-16, 2004, by the Body Freedom Collaborative, featuring films exploring naked expression in its many colors. Show venues include the 911 Arts Centre and the Seattle Art Museum. For more info, see the Naked Freedom Film Festival. Not sure, however, if the shows, themselves, will be clothing-optional...
- The Polar Bare Dip: A clothing-optional mid-winter dip in the chill waters of Puget Sound, organized by the Body Freedom Collaborative. The 2nd Annual Polar Bear Dip is scheduled at 9:30 a.m on January 17 (Saturday), 2004 at Carkeek Park, rain or shine. Lots of goosebumps on display. A clothed beach-cleanup is scheduled afterwards at 10:00 a.m. For more info, visit the Body Freedom Collaborative site.
- The Puyallup Fair: The new official name for the fair formerly known as the Western Washington Fair. The Puyallup Fair is not the official state fair, but is the largest fair held in the state and is considered as a state fair-level competition by 4-H, FFA, Junior Poultry Association, etc. Initially known as The Valley Fair, the fair has been held since 1900, making it both the oldest and largest fair in Washington state. Initially named The Valley Fair, in 1910 its name was changed to The Western Washington Fair, which is still its official name, although more recently it has been marketed as The Puyallup Fair. Held spanning the last three weekends of September, it is the sixth largest fair in the U.S. For more info, see the Do the Puyallup web site. Not to be confused with The Evergreen State Fair, which is located in Monroe.
- Rainier Mountain Festival: An event celebrating mountaineering in the Northwest, at Rainier BaseCamp, in Ashford, Washington, just outside Mt. Rainier National Park. Held this year on the weekend of September 20 - 21. See and meet world-class climbers and Mt. Everest guides (Ed Viesturs, Jim and Lou Whittaker, Dave Hahn, and many others), shop at the equipment and clothing clearance sale, participate in a 5-mile run, and compete in the Alpine Games. Other attractions include demonstrations, an all-age climbing wall, a salmon bake, live entertainment, kids games, and more. Admission is free except for the 5-mile run. For more info, visit the Rainier Mountain
- SalmonDays: Issaquah SalmonDays Festival, first weekend in October. Hatchery tours, parade, arts & crafts, food stands, and live entertainment.
- Seafair: Seattle's main community festival that takes place the first week of August. Seafair goes back to 1949. Decidedly family-oriented, with the possible exception of the Seafair Pirates. The centerpiece of Seafair is the Races, although they are not anywhere near as big a thing as they once were. There has even been talk of getting rid of them, of a Race-less Seafair--actually, I believe Seafair predates the hydroplance races. You'd still have the parades though--every neighborhood has one, plus the main parade, the Torchlight Parade. In fact, there used to be two main parades, the Torchlight that was at night and the Seafair Parade that was during the day, but that was eventually considered one parade too many.
- The Seattle Film Festival: The Seattle International Film Festival. May 18 to June 11, 2001. Running since 1978, your chance to catch many films that will never hit the multiplexes.
- The Spam Carving Contest: One of the most popular events at the original Fat Tuesday celebration. It was held for the last time at Mardi Gras 2000 (the renamed Fat Tuesday celebration), with the winners judged by no less of a personage than the novelist, Tom Robbins. Originally dreamed up by Ruby Montana -- she claimed she got the idea in a dream, although you have to wonder about someone who dreams about SPAM. Ruby Montana has since sold her kitsch emporium (Ruby Montana's Pinto Pony) and relocated to Palm Springs. For more details, see Montana leaves Washington for California page. See also Fat Tuesday.
- Trolloween: Fremont's unique Halloween celebration. Celebrators gather at the Troll in costume and be-lanterned for a torchlight parade. The Troll-au-Go-Go, a costume ball, follows (or at least used to). See Trolloween, a Primer from the Seattle Press. See here for some Trolloween photos. See here for some more Trolloween photos.
- The Tug Boat Races: Part of the Seattle Maritime Festival. If you have ever seen one of the Tugboat Annie movies, they were actually filmed on Elliott Bay and were based on actual tugboat races held there in the early part of this century. The current Tug Boat Races, if not the direct continuation of the Tugboat Annie tug boat races, are at least their spiritual heir. The Seattle Maritime Festival is held on the second weekend of May (May 8-9 for 2004), with the Tug Boat Races taking place on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. between Pier 56 and the Grain Terminal (Peir 86). Also featured at the festival are a parade, tug boat and fire boat ballet, forklift rodeo, clam chowder cookoff, and more. Tugs were also available to be toured before and after the races at Pier 66. For more details, see Gentlemen, start your tugs, it's a maritime fest from the Seattle Times.
- Zucchini Jubilee: Held on the second Saturday of September in Oakville, which is south of Elma on the highway to Chehalis. Celebrates everything zucchini, including a zucchini cookoff and recipe contest. See the Oakville Events page for more details.
For more info on Seattle's festivals, events, and celebrations, see A Seattle Directory.
The terms listed here range from the frequently to the seldomly used. Non-Nortwesterners should use these terms (in the vain hope of fitting in) only at the risk of being greeted by frequent blank stares. While some terms are known by virtually all Northwesterners, and actually spoken by many, others are known only to some or a few, while spoken by even fewer. However, if you hear one said, armed with this lexicon, you'll know what is meant.
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