Refuge Outdoor Festival returns to Tolt-MacDonald Park

Now in its sixth year, the annual Refuge Outdoor Festival returns to King County’s Tolt-MacDonald Park from Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 20. Geared towards people of color, this 3-day camping festival is open to everyone, including allies. Participants can come out for a day trip, camp out for a night, or stay for the whole weekend. The festival focuses on offering an array of camping options and activities that allow people to create a self-guided outdoor experience for themselves that fits their comfort level with the outdoors. This year’s gathering offers a fun-filled weekend of informative workshops, music, performances, art, outdoor recreation, and more.

Festival founder Chevon Powell launched Refuge Outdoor Festival in 2018 to serve as a space where BIPOC could take “refuge” in the great outdoors. While undertaking a solo backpacking trip in Vermont, Powell was questioned by law enforcement and told her reason for being in the area wasn’t credible. Inspired by the desire to have spaces where people of color could connect with nature, Chevon established her own outdoor-focused BIPOC-centered event production company, Golden Bricks Events, which produces Refuge Outdoor Festival, in addition to other year-round offerings.

Festival Director Martin Tran attended the first two Refuge Outdoor Festivals as a camper, long before joining the festival staff earlier this spring. “Many people of color didn’t grow up going outdoors or feel safe going outdoors for various reasons,” Tran says. The programs curated for Refuge Outdoor Festival seek to create a sense of welcome and belonging for people of color who want to connect to nature and the outdoors.

Communal cooking at Refuge Outdoor Festival.

Film screenings, a gameshow, and live music are planned for this year’s festival. Family-friendly offerings include group bird walks and a workshop on ethical foraging. Oshun Swim School will offer a session on river mindfulness and cultivating a sense of comfort and safety in water. Additional offerings include workshops for affinity groups and allies on creating a sense of safety and belonging in the outdoors for all.

Live music at Refuge Outdoor Festival.

As the festival re-establishes its presence following a pandemic, Festival Community Manager Chrisha Favors is excited to gather community and ease the sense of distance and fear that separated people for so long. “Coming out of the virtual space of pandemic, we really hope to recreate the sense of connection that we felt years ago, while continuing to honor the need for a sense of safety.”

Tran also expressed excitement to be with the community face to face, “connecting with people in a real way.” He has noticed attendees returning year after year, growing from being campers to confident workshop leaders who are eager to share their knowledge with community.

Participants of Refuge Outdoor Festival at Tolt-MacDonald Park.

Refuge Outdoor Festival was named as one of the 29 best outdoor festivals of 2023 by Outside Magazine. For more information and tickets, visit

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