Excellence on Main Award

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Downtown Sounds

Awardee: Downtown Bellingham Partnership

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2019

City: Bellingham

In 2019, downtown Bellingham will be celebrating its 15th annual Downtown Sounds summer concert series. Firmly cemented as downtown Bellingham’s hottest summer attraction, this free, urban music festival activates two full city blocks for five consecutive Wednesdays in July and August, showcasing high-quality bands, local food, award-winning beer and cider, and activities for the entire family.

Like any successful program, Downtown Sounds has become a positive, impactful event through careful curation and strong partnerships over the last 15 years. The concert series started in an underutilized alley in 2005 with goals that it has held firm ever since: to foster a sense of community, to create equitable access to culture and arts, and to encourage creative use of existing space.
The Downtown Bellingham Partnership has coordinated the series since its inception. Local businesses, like The Wild Buffalo music venue and a stage/sound/lighting company called Groove Merchant Northwest, have been crucial and reliable partners over the last 15 years.

As the series became more and more popular, it inevitably grew into larger spaces downtown, making its way to Bay Street in the heart of downtown Bellingham’s Arts District. More partners also came on board, including SPARK Museum and Boundary Bay Brewery, which donates product to the beer garden. By 2015, up to 3,000 people were attending each concert and the event expanded its footprint yet again, making more room for the “Family Alley” and other features to engage the community.

Over the years, Downtown Sounds as grown tremendously, but also very intentionally. With nearly 1,000 volunteer hours going into the event, over 15,000 people visiting downtown Bellingham for the concerts each summer, and over $100,000 in gross income, Downtown Sounds has stayed remarkably true to its originally goals of fostering community, creating equitable access to the arts, and encouraging creative use of space. We commend the Downtown Bellingham Partnership and their partners on 15 years of creating space for people to experience the joy of being in community together.