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Image displays K Theory playing at Parke Diem
Credit: Manny Dan

Events

Learning more about Seattle’s free all-ages Parké Diem fest (DMNW Interview)

Parké Diem, Seattle’s longest-running free electronic music festival, was on June 10 this year. The event was from 12-9 pm at Volunteer Park in Seattle and buzzed with people dancing and having a good time. There were also flow artists, vendors, and even some kids in the crowd.

The energy was right, and even though it started with the clouds out early in the day, it wasn’t long before the sun appeared. Deep bass music was playing, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, the music, and the day!

We were excited to learn more about Parké Diem‘s amazing mission, favorite memories from past years, and goals for the future. We spoke with event organizers and the folks involved behind-the-scenes to discuss what goes into hosting this special event.

Image displays woman holding bucket for donations at Parke Diem (free festival)

Credit: Manny Dan

Background and history of Parké Diem

DMNW: What makes Parké Diem so special to all of you?

It is community-based, friendly, and free. We have little kids, and there were no free or family-friendly events that we could bring our kids to. The original version stemmed from us wanting to create a space where they could experience the music that we love in a safe setting. It’s kind of grown from there.

[The opposite is also true]: if you want a space to bring your parents, almost all of our friends have brought their parents at one point or another. It’s very inclusive and everyone is included.

Honestly at this point, we see some of the same people we’ve known for a decade here, once a year. It still brings all kinds of people together. People block it off on their calendars, which is really nice.

We also get the people walking by that aren’t exactly exposed to this kind of music. Either they like it, or they see and accept it. We had this one girl walk up to the perimeter and ask us, “Excuse me, what are you doing?”

We also had a guy who lives on the other side of the park who had his window open and decided to head to the park and check it out.

Image displays Parké Diem lineup - with K Theory headlining

Credit: Parké Diem

That’s so cool. It seems like it brings together such a cool combination of people that might not normally see this kind of stuff. What has been a favorite memory that comes to mind from a Parké Diem from the past? 

Listening to ill-esha playing her set in 2019. This was something on my bucket list for a long time, and I felt like her music just fit the park well. It was incredible. Same for Defunk in 2022, which was great.

The missing turtle is another! Somebody brought a turtle and it went missing at the event. Some people bring iguanas or snakes. It’s a cool thing that people bring all kinds of pets. We’ve heard before, “There’s a snake on the stage, how’d that happen?!”

Hardships involved with the event

What are some of the biggest obstacles you guys face in setting up this event? 

As we [grow], permitting becomes a bigger and bigger thing. Our generator this year is the biggest one we’ve ever had in order to support the biggest stage we’ve ever had. We needed permits from the city, so an electrical inspector had to come out. We have sort of had to put on our big boy pants and go through the steps of legitimizing what used to be smaller. For example, we used to bring our own speakers and hook them up to house power and play music with the homies. Now it’s turned into this.

Growth is probably our biggest pain point. It’s not so much an obstacle, but just all the things that come with growth like sound logistics and LED wall production that we didn’t originally have. We’re learning as we’re growing.

We’re also now a non-profit. We want to put our intentions out there that we’re not here trying to make money, we’re trying to fund the next one. We’re all board members and part of the initial non-profit group, so we all need to have the same vision.

This is our first year doing corporate sponsorships. We’re looking into the community trying to find companies that are aligned with our vision that want to help participate in funding this park party. This year, about a third of our expenses were covered by corporate sponsorships. We’re hoping to grow that [funding] to the point where we’re not doing it out of our pocket in order to really build it out. Also, we want to make it two days; it’s a lot of speakers to take down at the end of the day.

Image displays someone wearing tan shirt using flow arts (free festival)

Credit: Manny Dan

 So this is the 11th year?

11th annual, but we took 2 years off for COVID-19. When we started in 2011, it was called something else, but 2013 was the first official year of Parké Diem.

Looking into the future of Parké Diem

What are some of your goals with Parké Diem in the future, in addition to expanding into a second day? 

A bigger park. You could imagine us doing like a Bumbershoot type of thing, maybe at Seattle Center. We’d love to have multiple headliners, multiple genres, and really just expanding it in a way that makes sense for us.

How long does it take for you to get everything set up here? 

It probably takes three or four hours before we can start playing music. But, it depends on what part of the event it is. For example, vendors are part of the party but they set up on their own. At the end, there are a couple of hours there too. It’s over a 12-hour day for us by the end of it.

It’s a lot of work. We were getting ready for weeks, months even. There were meetings, front work, art parties at our houses, making shirts, tie-dying shirts, and making the art installations. One of our goals is to start planning earlier.

Image displays crowd of people at Parke Diem (free festival)

Credit: Manny Dan

Core values of Parké Diem

Why is it so important to you guys to keep this event free? 

To keep it inclusive, to make it accessible, right? That was the whole point. There are not really a lot of cool free events where people bring artists in, like headliners. Granted, you might be able to find a local event and that’s cool and fine, but we wanted to do something that was a little larger and attracts more people.

We just want everybody to be able to show up. It attracts people who normally wouldn’t come. For example, my best friend would not have brought all three of her kids if she had to buy a ticket for each of them. You can just come and experience it, and be a part of it, and then decide to leave when you want to.

If you see a Parké sticker on a sign, you might get a random person who looks it up who has never been to an electronic music event and decides to go. Then there you go! They come to their first one, and fall in love with it.

Electronic music changed [our lives] and we hope that it will for other people.

There are so many people who are constantly looking for fun day things to do in Seattle as well!

With the commercialization of electronic music, most of the scene has moved from raves that are all ages to [18+ or 21+] clubs. That already blocks off a lot of people who might be interested due to age restrictions.

What are some of the hardest parts of putting together an event like this?

It’s hard to all agree on the artists we want because there are like eight hands in the pie. Also, the set-up, teardown, getting rid of the trash: a lot of the physical aspects are very taxing.

Do you guys have volunteers and stuff that help too? 

This year we had Parké Rangers that walk around kind of like a Conscious Crew. They make sure that no one is drinking and that people know where the bathrooms are. We also have some Seattle public high school students who completed their community service hours here.

Group photo of Parke Diem at Volunteer park

Credit: Manny Dan

Huge thanks to everyone from Parké Diem for chatting with the DMNW team. We are grateful for those in our community moving in alignment with the values of accessibility, inclusion, and fun.

Keep an eye out for anything involved with Parké Diem in the future, and be sure to check it out next year!

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