Bumbershoot Since 1971
A peek into the past of one of Seattle’s largest arts, and music festivals.
With Bumbershoot coming up in less than a week, we thought we’d look into how the festival has evolved to become part of Seattle’s culture.
The Seventies: Mayor’s Arts Festival
1971: The festival held it’s first edition in 1971 at Seattle Center under the name the “Mayor’s Arts Festival, or “Festival 71”. With only a $25,000 budget, the festival aimed to revive the city 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 considered a novelty at 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 with a line up featuring Cal Tjader, Joe Venuti, and other local performers, the event grows to 5 days and manages to attract 200,000 visitors. 1973 was also the first time the event included a film festival.
1976: Bumbershoot is scaled down to a five day event over two weekends instead of one. This was also the first year that part of the event was 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 holds the first free public screening of the Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back”. The “Taste of Seattle” was also introduced as part of the event this year though it became it’s own event later on.
1988: The event introduced “Bumberdrum” to exhibit both international, and local percussionists. This addition proved instrumental in gaining Bumbershoot international exposure as it soon attracted a blend of worldwide musicians to the event.
The Nineties: Continued Growth
1995: Event organizers include a guitar festival, exhibit, and a 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 it’s own piece of history to a cultural event enjoyed by generations of Seattleites.
See you there this coming Labor Day!