More than 100 ensemble performances will take place in the Seattle Center Armory during Winterfest.
More than 100 ensemble performances will take place in the Seattle Center Armory during Winterfest.
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Seattle Center’s Winterfest is back for its 33rd year of winter fun, with ice skating, seasonal musical performances, holiday decorations and dozens of free events leading up to the New Year's fireworks display at the Space Needle.

“Seattle Center Winterfest is our annual holiday festival,” said Deborah Daoust, director of communications for Seattle Center. “It happens between Thanksgiving and New Years every year. We just try to bring festivity onto the grounds.”

Daoust said that since she works at the Seattle Center during the week, she loves walking through the Armory and hearing what student ensemble is performing in there at the time; there are more than 100 playing throughout the season.

“At Seattle Center we have something through our public programming division called Student Showcases,” she said. “So we have Winterfest student showcases, and there are about 110 different musical ensembles, choirs and dance ensembles that come from all over the region, from elementary school through high school, and they perform on the Armory main stage.”

A schedule of student showcases is available at seattlecenter.com/studentshowcases.

“It’s a great experience for the kids,” Daoust said. “They get to perform on a stage in front of an audience, and it really enlivens the Armory seven days a week.”

Performances can usually be seen mid-morning to the early afternoon each day.

The Armory is Winterfest’s activities hub, with its massive Winter Train and Village front and center, taking the spotlight alongside the musical ensembles.

“Inside in the Armory is where most of it takes place,” Daoust said. “We have the Winter Train and Village, which is a reproduction of a 19th century village, with a locomotive that kids can actually conduct from — they sit inside a recreation of King Street Station.”

She said it’s a 40-foot display filled with many different houses, churches and little shops. A lot of the references, if you read the buildings, have to do with Seattle and things that are close to Seattle Center.

For Daoust, being associated with Seattle Center’s Winterfest, professionally, brings back personal holiday memories of her own.

“I like the Winter Train and Village,” she said. “When I was growing up, my family had a small village. We had a candy castle. We made it. My family made it. My mother, or course, did a lot of the work. There was a big cathedral. We’d bring in evergreens from the outside and have cotton snow. This [Winterfest] village is like a really large version of what I grew up with.”

At Winterfest, Santa has taken up residence at the Space Needle, and all the theaters and gathering halls are putting on their best holiday performances, from the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s rendition of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” at McCaw Hall, to Seattle Children’s Theatre’s “Corduroy” at the Charlotte Martin Theater.

Fisher Pavilion that has many cool offerings, including ice sculpting every Saturday and its ice rink, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays until Jan. 5. The rink will close early on Christmas eve and be closed Christmas day. It will be open until 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Rentals are $8 for adults, $6 for children 6-12 and $2 for children 5 and under. People with their own skates receive a $2 discount.

Daoust said Winterfest is a chance to bring Seattle together.

“Seattle Center is the community’s gathering place, and (Winterfest) is part of our public programming,” she said. “Everybody can have an opportunity to enjoy the holidays, whether it’s walking into the Armory and seeing the festive trees and looking at the Winter Train and Village or doing ice skating.”

The Winter Train and Village is asking for a $2 donation for anyone who wants to conduct the train, to help pay for maintenance.

Seattle Center is all about creating dozens of free opportunities for families to enjoy over the holiday season, Daoust said.

“This is what we give to the community,” she said. “It’s part of our public programming. We want the community to partake in it and enjoy it. I know that a lot of people come back to the Winter Train and Village year after year. A lot of them were kids when they first saw it, and now we’re into the second generation seeing it. The Winter Train and Village have been at Seattle Center since 1975, so it’s quite a tradition behind a lot of what happens here between the holidays.”

Visit seattlecenter.com for more information about Seattle Center’s Winterfest.