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Bumbershoot, The Seattle Arts Festival

Written by Scott Messmore
One of the most interesting and original arts and cultural festivals in the country, Seattle's summer time Bumbershoot offers food, music, the arts and some wild and wacky activities. Every Labor Day weekend, Seattle residents get a taste of the arts and crafts in nearly every category. Bumbershooters are admitted for one price and roam the festival with its wandering performers, acrobats and musicians vying for their attention. It's sort of a collection of mini festivals in one larger festival. Bumbershoot is held on the grounds of the Seattle Center and places musicians and bands on 20 stages. All told,
there will be 1,200 artists from all walks of life at this year's Bumbershoot. Some acts in the past have included Tracy Chapman, George Clinton and Parliament, Joan Jett, Motorhead, Ben Harper, Ani DeFranco, Joan Osborne, Sugar Ray and teen idols Savage Garden. Rhythm and Blues music giants Chuck Berry, Etta James, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker have all played for sold out crowds at Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot is more than just great bands and music; there are dozens of smaller literary events and happenings throughout the four-day festival. At this year's fair
Marriage Vows at Bumbershoot
© The Seattle Arts Festival
there will be a book fair, a poetry slam, a comedy stage, hands-on art exhibits complete with artists, sculptors, bookbinders, comedians, actors, film makers, poets, disc jockeys and acrobats even walking the tight rope. Other crazy things happen like three-wheeled bike races and quickie marriages under the shadow of the Seattle Space Needle.

Bumbershoot History

Bumbershoot was started by city leaders in 1971 on the grounds of the very successful 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. With 100,000 people visiting the first event, it was a great success and the name Bumbershoot was eventually coined in 1973. Originally funded with money from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bumbershoot evolved into professional management that brought in national music acts and sought out sponsorships to support the festival. Today, the arts festival combines modern producing and scheduling with the time-tested craziness of the Seattle art scene. For years, Bumbershoot
shuffled along, providing great entertainment but just barely getting by. In 1995, the City of Seattle formally backed out of the event and turned it over to One Reel, a non-profit arts group that had run the show since 1980. The Pacific Northwest infamous rainy weather continues to worry event organizers while they still try to figure out how to stage a great event for one low price.

Hours of Operation and Location

Bumbershoot is held at the 74-acre Seattle Center on Labor Day weekend.
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Last Updated: September 23, 2015