This year’s Dragon Fest will feature non-stop cultural performances including Dragon and Lion dances, Japanese taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations, the Chinese Girls Drill Team, and more. • Courtesy Photo
This year’s Dragon Fest will feature non-stop cultural performances including Dragon and Lion dances, Japanese taiko drumming, martial arts demonstrations, the Chinese Girls Drill Team, and more. • Courtesy Photo

This weekend, Dragon Fest returns to Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, marking 40 years in the neighborhood. Hosted by the Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), Dragon Fest is the largest Pan-Asian American street-fair in the Pacific Northwest and was first organized as the summer fest in 1975.

Dragon Fest takes place on Saturday, July 11 from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, July 12 from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. In addition to the Dragon Fest, the Chinatown/International District will host the Night Market event on Saturday, July 11 from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

The International Examiner caught up with CIDBIA interim executive director Wren McNally to talk about what to expect from this year’s festivities.

CIDBIA interim director Wren McNally. • Courtesy Photo
CIDBIA interim director Wren McNally. • Courtesy Photo

International Examiner: Dragon Fest keeps coming back bigger every year. What makes this year’s festival stand out?

Wren McNally: Of the various CIDBIA initiatives focused on cultivating a safe, attractive, and activated Chinatown-International District, Dragon Fest is one of our more tangible and lively activities. It has become the largest Pan-Asian American summer street-fair in the Pacific Northwest and we have an exciting event planned again this year. This year is particularly important because it marks the C/ID’s 40th Dragon Fest. The festival will feature local businesses and organizations through the $2 food walk, street fair, and cultural performances. We will also have live music, dancing, and numerous vendors. The food walk will feature businesses in all three neighborhoods: Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon. The event will activate King Street from 5th Ave S. to 8th Ave S. This world-class event would not be possible without our small but dedicated staff, our community supporters, and the district businesses.

IE: What do you think Dragon Fest represents for the International District community?

McNally: Dragon Fest provides an important venue to showcase Seattle’s important cultural heritage, promote the district’s numerous businesses and organizations, and activate the Chinatown-ID. From the CIDBIA’s perspective, equally important to hosting a successful annual event is that Dragon Fest catalyzes ongoing support of the district—culturally and economically. As the festival has grown, the CIDBIA has maintained its focus on highlighting the C/ID as an important cultural destination and a vibrant business district.

IE: What does Dragon Fest represent for the people who flock to it from all over the city?

McNally: For Dragon Fest’s tens of thousands of participants, the event is a tremendous opportunity for both the local community to celebrate its district and for visitors to gain first-hand exposure to the great dining, shopping, and cultural experiences the C/ID has to offer. The C/ID is a regional asset and Dragon Fest is an perfect way to celebrate it.

IE: There are a lot more cultural performances on stage this year. How do you think showcases like this help in people’s understanding about the diversity of the API community?

McNally: Live cultural performances provide a fun and impressive way to feature Seattle’s Chinatown/ID’s rich cultural history. The performances are also highly inclusive—they are a great way for all people to enjoy and learn about the district’s diverse API community.

IE: Is there anything else you’d like Dragon Fest attendees to know?

McNally: The fact that this is the fourth decade of Dragon Fest illustrates the value of the event to this vibrant the community and a testament to the incredible support from the neighborhood, community partners, and sponsors.

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