The 48th Northwest Folklife Festival will gather more than 5,000 artists and culture bearers over four days at Seattle Center, with this year’s focus on amplifying youth voices.

“It’s seriously a community-powered event,” said Folklife executive artistic director Kelli Faryar, “and it’s over 5,000 musicians and artists and culture bearers that come and showcase who we are in the Northwest.”

Folklife recently dropped its 2019 lineup of artists and musicians that will perform on more than 20 stages around Seattle. The festival runs May 24-27. Jamaica-born reggae musician Clinton Fearon will close out the festival on May 27, as he has for the past decade.

“Clinton Fearon is one of those legends that we’re so fortunate to have here in the Northwest,” Faryar said.

Folklife receives 800-1,000 applications every year, Faryar said, and works to balance welcoming new performers and longtime artists and culture bearers.

“It is a choose-your-own-adventure,” she said of the festival, adding she likes knowing people can get pulled in other directions. “It’s setting a schedule, but getting absorbed and lost along the way and discovering.”

Construction of the new Seattle arena is now in full swing, and Folklife spent more than a year coordinating with developer Oak View Group to keep the festival going, Faryar said. The rebuild caused impacts to two traditional stage locations, so performances were spread among the other 20-plus stages.

The four-day festival has seen up to 250,000 people come through annually for the past several years, and there is a lot of work that goes into keeping everything flowing.

“We know people are coming,” Faryar said, “but what do they need to show up and have all the information they need?”

Youth Rising is a yearlong program that features peer mentorship, youth residencies, performances and events for musicians, artists and burgeoning leaders. It’s Folklife’s 2019 cultural focus, and there will be plenty of young artists taking the stage at this year’s festival.

Curating the annual festival is made easier through more than 130 community coordinators, some who have been assisting Folklife for the past two decades.

“The festival is coordinated — 65 percent — through the community, through the community coordinator program,” Faryar said.

Northwest Folklife struggled with keeping the event going in 2017, due to decreasing donations at the gate. There are no tickets to buy, and people are asked to pay what they can at the gate. The suggested donation is $10 per person or $20 per family.

“2017 was a year where we were running the numbers and saw that about 17 percent of the people who were attending were making a donation,” Faryar said. “It really was a call to action to the community, saying that it’s not a free festival; it’s a festival that’s built by and for the community.”

Despite having more than 500 volunteers and musicians donating their talents to the festival, there are many associated costs with putting it on.

“Since then we’ve been really communicating to the community the ownership of the festival is with the community,” Faryar said.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has been a presenting sponsor for the Northwest Folklife Festival for the past four years.

“Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is honored to sponsor, and continue to support, Folklife for the fourth year in a row, precisely because art touches everyone – just as cancer can, ” said Holly Rosenfeld,  SCCA director of marketing. “Central to the mission of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is to serve cancer patients, locally, nationally and globally, and provide the best possible outcomes to those who seek their care here.  We recognize the inspiration and joy art can bring to so many people and want to make sure everyone in our community can experience that same joy through this essential music and arts festival.”

Folklife provides programming throughout the year and in and around Seattle. Its Our Big Neighborhood program focuses on introducing youth and families to the cultures that make up the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Children’s Festival will take place Sept. 21-22 in the Seattle Center Armory.