What's new this year at Folklife?
- Dancehall shortage. The Exhibition Hall, which in the past has hosted Cajun, Zydeco, Country, Swing, and other non-contra participatory dancing, was claimed by another Seattle Center organization for the weekend. As a result, the Ex Hall participatory dancing events must now share the small Center House dance floor with the participatory ethnic dancing (including salsa and tango) and the large Fisher Pavilion Roadhouse dance hall with the contra dancing, square dancing, English dancing and waltzing. Saturday night there will not be any contra dancing in the Roadhouse until 10 p.m. The contra dancers will find this a unique opportunity to expand their horizons.
- New look. Artis the Spoonman, who performed this afternoon with the perennially indignant protest songwriter Jim Page, has stopped shaving his head! I'd never seen him with hair. It looks very attractive...but you might not recognize him until he whips out his spoons and other percussion devices. (Interesting to note that Page, who pronounces the word "tech" the way most people pronounce the word "shit," has a fine website.)
- New food. There are a few new food booths, including The Taste of Poland on the Key Roadway (Key Arena side of the Fisher Green). I haven't had the opportunity to try them yet; I had a very good, extremely spicy Jambalaya at the Southern Kitchen in the Kobe Bell plaza at the foot of the Fountain Lawn near Founders Court. Oddly, my favorite Folklife food is the superb baba ganouj and hummus at the Mediterranean restaurant in the Center House Food Court.
- Crackers. The "freebies" at the festival are always interesting. Last year it was pomegranate juice; this year, Ritz crackers with no trans fats. (Report: They're good, but would be better with some chopped chicken liver on them.)
- Cooked vs. raw. The clothing vendor Hartware (just off the Crafts Walkway by the upper Fountain) has wonderful painted shirts, including one of a jousting asparagus stalk versus a carrot. Trust me -- you have to see this one.
- Order in the court. The Northwest Court area has a stage and a beer garden, as usual, but no crafts booths this year. This makes it an even more pleasant venue for simply focusing on the music. I caught the Nudie Suit Stardusters, a new vintage country group, there this evening.
- Donation pricing. Suggested per-day donation for Folklife has gone up to $10 per day (but only $20 for a family group). Think $10 is a lot? It's less than a new CD, or a pizza. And a day at Folklife is much, much better than a CD or a pizza. Even a Snoose Junction pizza.