Buskers in the ‘Burg
Awardee: Carolyn Honeycutt and Linda Schantz
Award: Outstanding Promotional Event
In 2011, the EDA hosted its first Ellensburg Fallfest, a new downtown event that embraced the arts, including street performers. After just one year, the term “busker” made its way into common Ellensburg vernacular and the festival was renamed Buskers in the ‘Burg! In five short years it has grown from a small, one day event to a two-day festival featuring performers from all across the country.
That first year, an artist named Brian Kooser applied to be a busker at the festival. While performing, he wore a giant handmade puppet and was an immediate hit at the new event. The following year the EDA commissioned Kooser to create more puppets with the goal of incorporating a parade into the festival. At the 2012 event, after months of preparation, Kooser and other EDA volunteers stunned festival attendees by wandering through the event dressed in larger-than-life puppet costumes. Each year since, the puppets have gotten more creative and the parade has grown larger.
The impact of Buskers in the Berg has been significant for the downtown business community. In 2015, an estimated 2,000 people participated in the festival. Over 450 children and their families signed up to participated in the kids’ activities that are a highlight of the event. Many downtown merchants boast high sales numbers during the festival, and credit that success to not just number of attendees, by the layout of the event. With 25 buskers and other acts stationed on sidewalks throughout the district, there are plenty of reasons for festival attendees to explore, dine and shop in downtown Ellensburg.
The EDA now draws musicians, aerial artists, magicians, and other performers from all over the country, while still providing a venue for many local musicians and artists to promote their talents. An additional stage was recently added specifically to accommodate local dance groups.
Ellensburg Downtown Association has taken a fun idea and turned it into an unforgettable festival that continues to grow and adapt.