Bumbershoot is the SuperMall of arts festivals: A sometimes bewildering offering of food, poetry, art and sound for the soul, all in one corner of Seattle.
But despite the press of bodies, headliner bands, throbbing bass lines and sloshing beer cups at the Seattle Center, one humble artistic offering this weekend stands ready to snare your attention and make you peer close: the childhood doodlings and drawings of Jimi Hendrix.
The watercolors, pencil sketches of his father sleeping, and boyish drawings of football players are part of a special psychedelic Hendrix exhibit called "Red House," put together to celebrate Bumbershoot's 25th anniversary.
On display are Hendrix's 12-string guitar, his gold records, blown-up family photos, Hendrix's old amplifiers, wa-wa pedal and worn love seat, and cherry velvet and purple suede stage outfits, in addition to computer-generated psychedelic art and a wide range of Hendrix fan paraphernalia.
The intimate pictures yesterday stood at odds with the hugeness of Bumbershoot.
"It wasn't something I expected from him," said 28-year-old Gary Fountain, a Seattle videographer walking through the exhibit. "Even at that age, he was an artist. I thought it was very moving."
Seattle resident Gayle Lutschg said she liked the exhibit because it made Hendrix more human and "took him out of the context of being a legend."
Also part of the Hendrix tribute is the first-ever Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Festival and a guitar competition.
It starts today at 3:45 p.m. Eight guitarists selected from 140 entries will compete to see which one best embodies Hendrix's imagination and technical brilliance. The winner will receive, among other things, a $5,000 cash prize and a Gibson Jimi Hendrix Flying V guitar.
The Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert will start at 1 p.m. tomorrow with an all-star line-up, including George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars, Noel Redding, Dwayne "Blackbird" McKnight and the Washington State Mass Choir.
Bumbershoot organizers hope the spirit of Seattle's native rocker and clear blue skies will boost festival attendance to 175,000 people this year and put the struggling arts festival back in the black.
Jane Zalutsky, associate producer of One Reel, the nonprofit group that puts on the festival, said it has lost money for several years in a row. Last year, the group lost $400,000, partly due to bad weather, which drove down attendance.
Zalutsky estimated that Bumbershoot, which costs $2.8 million to produce, has a total economic impact in the Seattle area of as much as $15 million.
"There are no hotel rooms in the city of Seattle," said Zalutsky, who had a hard time finding rooms for many of the festival's 2,000 performers.
In addition to the Hendrix concert today, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Greg Brown, Sky Cries Mary and dozens of other bands will be playing on stages around the Seattle Center.
For the latest information on Bumbershoot, call 682-4-FUN. Website address: http://useattle.uspan.com/bumbershoot.
Adult admission at the gate is $10 a day; children and seniors, $1.