Excellence on Main Award

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Whale of a Sale

Awardee: Downtown Anacortes Alliance

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2023

City: Anacortes

The Outstanding Promotional Event Award is an annual award that recognizes creative and effective promotional campaigns that attract people to the downtown or neighborhood commercial district. The 2023 award goes to the Downtown Anacortes Alliance for breathing new life into and rallying community support around the local Whale of a Sale event.

Whale of a Sale was a sidewalk sale event started by a local merchant in downtown Anacortes 15 years ago, but over time, participation waned and recent attempts to revive it were met with little success. In 2023, local merchants called upon the Downtown Anacortes Alliance to host the event. While a new organization, the Downtown Anacortes Alliance saw the event’s potential and decided to take it on as their first-ever event, dedicating $700 for their general fund to pull it off on a shoestring.

Through their board-led Outreach and Promotions Committee, the Downtown Anacortes Alliance recruited business to participate; planned a live band, buskers, and maritime-themed kids’ activities; and coordinated volunteers to help support the event. They set a conservative goal of recruiting 10 businesses to participate—but recruitment efforts resulted in 33 participating merchants. Partner organizations such as the Anacortes Music Project got involved, and for the first time in the event’s history, restaurants joined in the fun by offering drink specials and outdoor dining options. Merchants complemented the Downtown Anacortes Alliance’s marketing campaign by offering their own blowout sales and promotions. On the day of the event, Anacortes’ streets were filled with local folks discovering new businesses and running into friends and neighbors downtown. (A pod of orcas even gave their blessing to the event, visiting the waterfront near downtown just two days before the launch!)

Many events are hosted in downtown Anacortes, but the Downtown Anacortes Alliance’s first event was unique. They were very intentional about focusing this event on Fidalgo Island locals and existing businesses. In their own words, Whale of a Sale ‘demonstrated the joy and power that we already have in our community.’