Nothing screams culture like deep fried PB&J's, getting chased down by a man with a dagger and enough street performers to form a>"/>
Nothing screams culture like deep fried PB&J's, getting chased down by a man with a dagger and enough street performers to form a miniature Seattle circus. That, however, is exactly what the first day of the Northwest Folklife Festival turned out to be -- a melting pot of food, crafts, art and music overflowing from the grass and sidewalks into every nook and cranny at the Seattle Center. The weather was crisp and golden, the children were frolicking through fountains ... and did I mention getting chased down by a guy with a dagger?
Though various stages littered the area with a healthy supply of bands and artists pouring their guts out, the real musical magic took place on the sidewalks from any one of what seemed like hundreds of street performers with acoustic guitars, metal buckets and loyal canine companions. Oh, and bagpipes. Lots of bagpipes.
Papa Alfredo & His North Dakota Peaches + Whoopee Boiz
The band Papa Alfredo & His North Dakota Peaches + Whoopee Boiz seemed innocent enough. As pictured, a lone gal sat with her guitar in the grass, softly singing her down-south woes while her comrades huddled in the distance, passing the time with cheers and laughs. It is unclear who played the role of "Papa Alfredo" in this traveling family, but I'm willing to put my money on the fact that the guys sitting on the hill with mini-shorts strapped to their shorts weren't the "North Dakota Peaches." After taking this picture, a man with dreads and a tattoo under his eye chased after me, demanding I delete it. He informed me he didn't believe in pictures and refused to be in them, though I assured him he couldn't be seen. I was forced to "delete" it from my camera or things were going to get rough. I tip my hat to you, kind sir. On a lighter note, the girl was excellent.
Northwest Junior Pipe Band
The largest crowd I saw during my four hours at the festival was from the Northwest Junior Pipe Band, a non-profit out of Shoreline that provides an alternative music experience for kids up to the age of 18. The 17 member ensemble, featuring eight bagpipes and an assortment of drummers, played to a packed crowd in traditional Scottish uniforms at the Mural Amphitheater.
Breaking the stereotype of brown clothes, patchwork pants and witty signs asking to "get high," Portland based Renegade Minstrels played hearty blues and roots music but looked like "the band next door." Exceptionally proficient on their instruments, which included a mandolin, banjo/harmonica, stand up bass and acoustic guitar, the five piece had all the spunk of a swamp-town southern band, but managed to get by just fine without spitting into a metal bucket.
With nothing but an acoustic guitar and a powerful voice, the small and seemingly reserved Carly Calbero belted out mesmerizing personal songs to those walking by, causing repeated second-takes. Boasting a background in classical and jazz voice, the singer played through her best songs and was quick to greet and thank those willing to stop by and take a listen.
Trying to wrap my mind around the endless food options was just as overwhelming as trying to pick from the various menus. And no, I'm not talking about hamburgers and funnel cake. Meandering through the air were scents of Thai, authentic Greek gyros, African, frozen chocolate bananas, and more.
Horn of Africa
After much internal debate, I ended up going with Horn of Africa for lunch. The East African cuisine, featuring phenomenal food from Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, was cooked fresh, and at $8 for an entrée, competitive against other vendors. I purchased the Lukku (garlic lemon) chicken thigh, which was marinated in garlic, lemon and onions. For $2 extra I could have added on a triangular, meat filled "sambusa," but I'm glad I fought the temptation -- I like to avoid loosening my belt after a meal in public.
Peanut Butter Goodness
With God as my witness, I will order a deep fried PB&J from Peanut Butter Goodness before the Folklife Festival is over. Once I get over a few of the questions holding me back -- What happens to jelly in grease? Wouldn't the bread just soak mush up and separate? Can a 22-year-old man-child induce heart failure with one sandwich? -- I will cough up the dough required to purchase one of these bad boys. Picture evidence to follow.
Random Tidbits of Fun
To say the weather early Friday was perfect would be an understatement. A few gray clouds did make their presence known later in the afternoon, but that hardly dampened the fun for anyone who made their way down to the fountain.
A professional performer from Berkley, Ca., Richard Hartnell's contact juggling captivated nearly every person who walked by. Contact juggling involves specific bodily movements and balance that create the illusion of the user being able to manipulate a floating ball. Part of the Bellingham Circus Guild, Hartnell never failed to capture a laugh -- or a dollar -- from his audience.