With Bumbershoot coming up in less than two weeks, we thought we’d look into how the festival has evolved to be an big part of the city’s culture
The Seventies: Mayor’s Arts Festival
1971: The festival held it’s first edition in 1971 at Seattle Center under the name “Mayor’s Arts Festival, or “Festival 71”. With a mere $25,000 budget, the festival aimed to revive Seattle from the local economic downturn. The event committee was chaired by talk show host Irving Clark Jr and included Avant Garde organizer, Anne Focke. For the event’s inaugural edition, Focke introduced laser shows, which was something special for the time. The event proved to be largely successful, attracting between 125,000 to 150,000 attendees and became Seattle’s largest event since the World Fair in 1962.
1973: The event changes it’s name to “Bumbershoot” and is extended to 5 days and continues to grow. The line up includes Cal Tjader, and Joe Venuti and manages to attract 200,000 visitors. The event begins to expand by including more local artists, dancers, and craftspeople along with the first edition of the film festival.
1976: Bumbershoot is scaled down to a five day event over two weekends and is the first time it is held on Labor Day.
1977: Labor Day becomes the permanent dates for the festival.
The Eighties: One Reel Takes Over
1980: Non profit organization One Reel takes over as the main event organizer and for the first time in the event’s history, charges an admission fee of $2.50. In an attempt to draw larger crowds for the event, One Reel president and CEO Norman Langil includes renowned acts such as Chuck Berry, and Etta James.
1981: Bumbershoot saw the first time the Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back” was shown for free anywhere and also saw the introduction of the “Taste Of Seattle”, which later became a separate event.
1988: The event introduces “Bumberdrum”, which attracts both world-renowned, and local percussionists to the event. The idea played a huge role in growing the event through it’s subsequent editions with “Bumberdrum” incorporating a mix of international music ranging from Indonesian gamelan musicians to West African drummers.
The Nineties: Continued Growth
1995: Event organizers include a guitar festival, exhibit, and tribute concert to Jimi Hendrix for the event’s 25th anniversary. Rock from Patti Smith, and The Ramones, mixed with jazz with acts from Mel Torme draw large crowds to the event.
1998: For the first time, wristbands are required for some shows and steel fences are installed to control crowds coming into the Mainstage area.
1999: Bumbershoot grows to 25 stages to host all of it’s acts.
The New Millennium, 2000–2016:
Over the last 15 years, Bumbershoot has continued to grow to be one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest and most well known festivals. The event continues to awe it’s audiences with both local and international names regularly included in it’s headlines.
This year’s Bumbershoot, the festival’s 45th edition, will play host to some of the biggest names in music. With a lineup with the likes of Kygo, Death Cab for Cutie, Porter Robinson, and Macklemore, the 2016 event promises to add on to a cultural event known and enjoyed by generations of Seattleites.
See you there this coming Labor Day!