Bumbershoot is an old-fashioned word for an umbrella, and was chosen as the name of one of the largest performing arts festivals in North America as a metaphor for the wide variety of arts and performances it encompasses. In this respect, it is similar to the Edinburgh Festival held in Scotland each August. Bumbershoot Seattle 2021 is held over the Labor Day weekend, capping out a very busy season of summer festivals.
Bumbershoot Music and Facts
The Bumbershoot lineup is heavy on music, featuring icons like Bob Dylan and Mary J. Blige. Expect a number of stages going on at any one time during the festival, so you can check out any number of bands, big and small. But there are also comedy, film, dance, theatre, literature, and visual arts events. Part of the primary focus of the Bumbershoot lineup is regional Pacific Northwest talent. An example of this is the artist chosen for the 2011 artwork and logo. Jesse LeDoux is from Portland, Oregon and spent many years as the art director for a Seattle-based record company, designing album covers and posters. Exhibits have showcased Seattle's cartoonists, the Oakland, California based Cyclecide Bike Rodeo, the San Francisco based AXIS Dance Company, and the Seattle Street Biennale with the city's most respected street talent.
Bumbershoot Seattle was first held in 1971 on the grounds of the 1962 World's Fair, and welcomed more than 150,000 attendees in that first year. It was officially named Bumbershoot in 1973, and is held in the 74 acres of the Seattle Center Park in the shadow of the iconic Space Needle. The park contains a number of other Seattle attractions, including museums like the Pacific Science Center, the Science Fiction Museum, and a number of theaters and performing arts venues. The Seattle Center is located at the north end of the downtown area. From Interstate 5, take the Mercer Street exit east towards the ocean. There is ample parking around the park, but space is at a premium during the festival. You are probably better off using the city's excellent public transportation or bicycles.
Directions to Bumbershoot
As parking is at a premium, perhaps the best way to get here is to park farther away and take the Seattle buses (King County Metro) into Seattle Center. These buses run from points all around town. Another option is the monorail, which runs from Westlake Center every ten minutes.
To drive here, take the I-5 Mercer Street exit (exit 167). At the first light, take a right onto Fairview. At the next light, take a left onto Broad Street. Take a right onto 5th Avenue and a left onto Roy Street. Roy Street puts you a block away from one of the entrances to the center at Mercer Street and 2nd Avenue.
The Bumbershoot lineup is generally released in stages beginning sometime in the spring. The lineup is so prestigious and so eagerly awaited, that various sources leak some of the big names in advance of the official announcements. These are often quite reliable, but you cannot count on any particular performer until the official announcements. Bumbershoot Seattle 2021 tickets go on sale well before the official lineup is set. The lineup has historically featured such reliably excellent performers that thousands buy their tickets without knowing exactly what acts they might see. Tickets are also relatively inexpensive. You can get an "Insider's Pass" for less than $100 for the entire three days of the festival by signing up to receive a special code via email. Otherwise, a three-day ticket can cost $300 or more. You can also buy single day tickets. Any ticket allows you free access to all events and performance in the festival. Some of the events have limited seating capacity, requiring you to obtain a separate (free) pass.
You have a wide variety to choose from for your Bumbershoot lodging. Even if you limit your search to places close to the park, you can choose from waterfront motels and luxury hotels and everything in between. If you want to really close to the park, try the MarQueen, a lovely boutique hotel located at 600 Queen Anne Avenue North. It is only two blocks from the northwest corner of the park and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. The boutique hotel offers 58 rooms and suites, all with kitchenettes. Within the hotel is a coffee bar, restaurant, and full service day spa.
Image: Christopher Nelson