Excellence on Main Award

Buskers in the ‘Burg

Awardee: Carolyn Honeycutt and Linda Schantz

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2016

City: Ellensburg

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.

Excellence on Main Award

Meet Me Downtown

Awardee: Linda Haglund and Steph Grubich

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2016

City: Wenatchee

When the Wenatchee Downtown Association learned that the City was planning a major infrastructure improvement project for summer 2014, they knew they would have to pull resources together to support the downtown business community during the inevitable disruption. Out of this need came the concept of a campaign that would put a face to the locally-owned businesses that populate downtown Wenatchee.

The Meet Me Downtown campaign ran for 24 months, from January 2014 thru December 2015. Each month, a different downtown business owner was spotlighted with an ad printed in a local publication and shared online. The ads included a picture of the business owner(s), a brief profile that included aspirations for investing in downtown Wenatchee, and an invitation to visit the business. The business owners were given 50 souvenir Meet Me Downtown shopping bags to give away during the month they were featured by the campaign.

The Meet Me Downtown campaign helped people connect with businesses in a new way and created a greater sense of place. By telling the stories of the business owners themselves –  people like Peggy Nichols, Kyle Hendrickson, and Pete and Sarah Lolos – the Meet Me Downtown campaign effectively created a personal connection and further reason for community members to support a vibrant local economy by choosing to shop at local downtown businesses.

Excellence on Main Award

Downtown Camas Video Series

Awardee: Caroline Mercury, Dawn White, Randy Curtis, and Carrie Schulstad

Award: Outstanding Promotional Campaign

Year: 2017

City: Camas

Much of the appeal of downtown Camas is visual – the walkable streets, the historic buildings, the lights, the trees, the welcoming merchants. Yet, there was no such visual representation of the community. Recognizing this, the Downtown Camas Association embarked upon a video series project.

One of the challenges was finding an equitable and interesting way to incorporate multiple merchants, not to mention coordinating with their busy schedules. The DCA and their production company, Anthem Media, decided to create a series of “day in the life” videos, which feature local residents and business owners going about their daily routines. In addition to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday videos, the series also includes a “Why Come to Camas” promotional piece and two personal stories focused on specific merchants. In total, seven videos were created, featuring 32 different downtown businesses.

Since their launch in January 2016, the videos have already received tens of thousands of views. The videos are being utilized by multiple stakeholders, including the city and the downtown hotel.

Excellence on Main Award

Día de Los Muertos Chalk Art Festival

Awardee: Colleda Monick and Joe Hudon

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2017

City: Yakima

Downtown Yakima is host to many successful events which are very popular with the 21 and older crowd. In an effort to showcase downtown as a place that is inclusive to all ages and demographics, the Downtown Association of Yakima began a series of Second Saturday events featuring free family friendly activities.

One of the most popular Second Saturdays, hosted for the first time in 2015, featured a chalk art festival. The event was located in an area of downtown which features family oriented businesses, a market that is currently lacking in downtown Yakima. While successful in its first year, DAY looked for ways to improve the chalk art festival in year two.

Nearly 50% of Yakima residents are Hispanic, and yet downtown still lacks diversity in its business mix and programming. In 2016, DAY shifted the chalk art festival’s theme to focus on Día de Los Muertos in an effort to connect with a demographic they hadn’t always easily connected with in the past.

The Día de Los Muertos Chalk Art Festival opened the doors for DAY to partner with community organizations such as the Yakima-Morelia Sister City Association, a nonprofit that promotes mutual understanding and the sharing of cultural diversity between Yakima and Morelia, Mexico. Also involved in the festival were Yakima Symphony Orchestra musicians, professional artists from outside the community, and 35 Yakima Valley College students from a ChicanX Art & Culture class. Approximately 500 people participated in the 2016 festival.

Downtowns are for everyone, and the Downtown Association of Yakima is showing commitment to inclusivity through thoughtful programming and partnerships.

Excellence on Main Award

Morning Jam

Awardee: Alice Clark, Marissa McGrath, and Morgan Henry

Award: Outstanding Special Project

Year: 2017

City: Bellingham

Many makers and creators call Bellingham home, yet the community was largely unaware of this and the creators themselves seemed to lack support and a network. The Downtown Bellingham Partnership knew that these individuals and their initiatives are essential to the downtown’s vitality, so they launched a creative lecture series called Morning Jam in June 2015.

The speaking series highlights the creative, entrepreneurial energy of downtown Bellingham, with a different individual featured each month. The speakers  represent a huge range of passions — animation, documentary film making, projection mapping, sustainable farming, math theory, mural creating, seaweed foraging, wine making, desired light design, small business bootstrapping, metal working, portraiture, and elevated mobile experiences…just to name a few.

Morgan Henry, Downtown Bellingham Programming and Events Coordinator, personally scouts speakers and interacts with various media platforms including local community radio station and a Sound Cloud account which holds monthly recorded content for a growing body of online listeners.

Morning Jam takes place on the second Wednesday of every month. Attendees arrive at the Pickford Film Center, pour themselves a cup of Block Dog Coffee, and prep their breakfast at the toast bar using refurbished toasters from Bellingham’s Toaster Museum.

Local blogger and regular attendee Tammy Thiele says that Morning Jam has changed her relationships with the town she has lived in for 20 years. She says, “My curiosity for Bellingham and my neighbors has grown and I find myself felling much more connected to my community and my place in it.”

We are all thirsty to connect with the people around us and the places we call home, and Morning Jam provides a platform that is building invaluable social capital in Bellingham’s downtown.

Excellence on Main Award

Waterfront Walking Tours

Awardee: Josh Sherwin, Rahna Lovrovich, and Lindsey Johnson

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2016

City: Gig Harbor

In 2015, the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance initiated a new event designed to reclaim hidden history, build civic pride, and encourage economic vitality. The guided Waterfront Walking Tours of the downtown waterfront were free and open to the public. Targeting visitors and locals alike, the tours introduced participants to a “behind the scenes” view of the community and spurred interest in future explorations and patronage of the downtown business community.

A two-hour guided walking tour of the downtown waterfront was offered every Saturday throughout the summer. An average of 20 people participated in each tour, with a total over more than 300 attendees over the course of the Gig Harbor’ Waterfront Walking Tour’s first season in 2015.

The 1.3 mile informative tour offered a general overview of Gig Harbor history and wildlife along the downtown waterfront.

The Alliance partnered with two local non-profits – Harbor WildWatch (a marine and environmental education organization) and Harbor History Museum (a regional maritime and history museum) – to design content and lead tours. The final scrip incorporated history, natural history, and even a little local folklore. Each tour had two guides, one of whom was a wildlife expert.

The impact of the walking tours on the community is significant. The Alliance worked with local hotels to promote the tours to visitors, and encouraged all attendees to round out their tour with lunch at a nearby downtown restaurant. Attendees reported extremely positive reactions to the tours, and the Alliance is confident that positive word of mouth about the historic downtown waterfront district will be a long-term benefit of the tours, which they plan to continue and expand upon in future years.

Excellence on Main Award

Port Townsend Going Green Initiative

Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street board members Kris Nelson, Kevin Prime, Amy Howard, and Wendy Duede

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2018

City: Port Townsend

Port Townsend Main Street Program’s hosts its popular Concerts on the Dock summer music series on Thursdays in July and August, bringing over 400 people downtown each week. The event features local beer, wine, and cider – always a crowd favorite!

Inspired by Northwest Maritime Center, which uses mason jars at their own major event, Port Townsend Main Street researched options for making reusable drinkware available to concert-goers. The board invested in the program in 2017 by purchasing 1,000 stainless steel cups for beer. Steel isn’t ideal for wine and cider, so local pottery studio, LaughinGnome, was contracted to make reusable pottery cups to add to the collection. They donated 200 and the Main Street program purchased an additional 45.

Attendees can rent a cup for a $5.00 deposit, which is refunded at the end of the night when they return it. Main Street volunteers and staff rent out the cups from the information booth and the beer garden itself, and also wash the cups after each concert.

The stainless-steel cups and pottery cups were hugely popular! Port Townsend is an environmentally-minded community, and in previous years, thousands of plastic cups, which are not recyclable in this county, were used at the concerts. While free plastic cups are still available, the majority of the public chose to participate in the rental program.

Darby Huffman, owner of LaughinGnome, also expanded on the concept by providing a portable water system every week. This effort further reduced the event’s reliance on plastic cups and water bottles. The Main Street program plans to continue the successful program in its coming seasons of Concerts on the Dock.

Port Townsend’s ‘going green’ initiative capitalizes on a Main Street principle that incremental projects can make a big difference.

Excellence on Main Award

Bunny Daze

Awardee: Donna Christiansen, Langley Main Street Association Promotions Chair

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2018

City: Langley

Langley has been experiencing an overpopulation of rabbits for nearly a decade. The problem grew exponentially, as these things tend to do, and reached the national news cycle in 2016. Amidst a heated local discussion about “what to do about the bunnies,” the Langley Main Street Association decided to create a whimsical event to add levity to the issue and draw people to downtown for the benefit of the business community.

Bunny Daze, a weeklong promotion culminating in a special event on the Saturday before Easter, was born. The Main Street Promotions Committee sought local artists to design marketing, began thrifting for gently-used stuffed rabbits, and reached out to merchants to encourage them to use the theme to decorate their shops and offer special promotions throughout the week.

The Saturday event included games, like Hippity-Hopscotch, and a mayoral proclamation (declaring it to be “Langley Bunny Day,” acknowledging that on this day, especially, Langley loves its bunnies). The highlight was the “Bunny Hunt and Adoption Program”, which involved volunteers hiding 150 stuffed rabbits throughout the downtown and encouraging children find themselves a “wasscally wabbit”. The stuffed animals each had a tag reading, “Bunny Relocation Program – Please Take Me Home.” Volunteers handed out daffodils to all attendees and, at one point in the day, a spontaneous sing-along of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” burst out in the crowd.

Bunny Daze is poised to become a Langley tradition. The third annual event took place on March 31, 2018.

The Langley Main Street Association was able to take less-than-stellar press about an overpopulation of rabbits and show that they are not only creative, but that they can take things in stride.

Excellence on Main Award

Camas First Fridays

Awardee: Downtown Camas Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Camas

2015 marks the tenth anniversary for Camas First Fridays, which is hosted by the Downtown Camas Association. The event, like many other First Fridays across the country, provides a reason for people to break from daily routine and interact with the community. What makes Camas First Fridays unique is their ability to keep the event fresh and engaging for the participants.

Typically an art-based event, Camas knew early on that art alone would not be a sustainable draw with only two small art galleries in the community, so they opted to feature monthly themes and family-friendly activities. The consistency of the event keeps it top of mind, while the changing themes keep it exciting. Examples of successful themes include “A Chocolate Affair to Remember” with chocolate treats and a candy guessing game in each store; “Go Green!” with a Lucky Leprechaun hunt in stores, businesses posting how they are green, and green activities for the families; and “Spring Into History,” a tribute to the mill and town history with a trivia hunt in stores and a toilet paper toss as tribute to the mill.

One of the most successful themes was the “Camas Car Show,” which ultimately grew into its own event. The “Pumpkin Pageant” theme, where each merchant carves pumpkins and competes in a community vote, is also popular. All events are free and appeal to families and adults out for a fun night.

One of the more tangible benefits the event has for the community is the boost it provides to local merchants. The event draws locals and visitors off the sidewalks and into stores, making it an opportunity for participating merchants to boost sales. This design is highly intentional and introduces shoppers to merchants and products they may have overlooked otherwise. Restaurants that used to participate are now too busy with customers to participate and other stores claim record sales on First Fridays month after month, and many are expanding!

Other benefits of the event include the promotion of a collaborative environment for downtown merchants, opportunity for students and volunteers to be involved in the community, a place for non-profits to advance their missions, a way for local artists to showcase their work, and a way to entertain kids while instilling a sense of community pride. Since the start of 2014, general attendance has increased by 30%, and attendance for children has increased by 50%.

“The Downtown Camas Association has found a way to keep this event fresh and dynamic month after month,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “Not only are retail and restaurant businesses benefiting, but this has created a mechanism for the entire community to become invested in downtown.”

Excellence on Main Award

Musselfest

Awardee: Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association and Penn Cove Shellfish

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Coupeville

Every March, Coupeville hosts Penn Cove Musselfest – a three-day festival featuring mussel eating competitions, farm tours, activities, and a friendly chowder tasting competition. Originally started to encourage eating out during the off-season, the festival has turned into an event drawing 10,000 visitors to a town with a population one-fifth that number. In addition to the strong support from both residents and visitors, 100% of Coupeville restaurants participate in the chowder tasting competition.

The festival represents strong partnerships in the community. Restaurant owners used to finance the event until Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association (CHWA) took it over in 2007, offering to organize and finance the event. Penn Cove Shellfish added a mussel tasting beer and wine garden, and all profits are donated to the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club as well as the Coupeville High School Science Scholarship. The CHWA and Penn Cove Shellfish also provide fifty pounds of mussels, onions, and potatoes for the chowder tasting, Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle provides free transportation and Puget Sound Express ferries visitors to Shellfish Farm for a tour and education on the environmental guidelines of farmed mussels.

The event also draws ten to twelve chefs who provide a series of free mussel cooking demonstrations for visitors. Chefs are recruited from Whidbey Island, Seattle, the greater Puget Sound area, and Portland.

The impact the event has on the community is significant. The restaurants and businesses in the four-block event area remain the focus of the weekend. Without street vendors, Musselfest becomes the best retail weekend of the year for merchants. The event also creates fundraising opportunities for the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club, the Island County Historical Museum, and the Coupeville High School Booster Club.

In 2015, the 10,000 visitors booked every hotel in the immediate area, north or south. Restaurants were filled to capacity, and many merchants had the best sales in their history. Attendees willingly waited in ferry lines for two to three hours to participate, and tickets were sold out in hours. In every regard, this event has gone above and beyond to boost shoulder season revenues for merchants.

“The community has truly embraced this event, and the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association has made it one of the biggest events of the year,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “We are thrilled to be honoring such a long-standing event!”

Excellence on Main Award

Monsters on Machines

Awardee: Langley Main Street Association, The Commons, SRV Construction Company and Moonraker Bookstore

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2015

City: Langley

Langley’s city center was dramatically impacted by a six-month street replacement project that closed Second Street, one of three main streets in the downtown district. Business access was very limited, and traffic was rerouted differently every day. The entire street was dug out and put back in, taking a significant toll on businesses along the corridor.

Monsters on Machines provided a solution to bring people downtown and allow them to embrace the goals of the Second Street project and witness the progress. The Monsters on Machines event used the construction as an asset by providing an enormous family friendly photo op in the midst of mud, gravel, heavy equipment and roadblocks. The solution mitigated six months of construction chaos and brought patience and community loyalty to the streets.

Local author, Deb Lund, wrote the children’s book, “Monsters on Machines,” which inspired the event. The book features little monsters that can build big things, and the community adopted the theme with Lund’s permission. The Commons Coffee Shop served Monsteroni and Cheese, and the local bookstore, Moonraker, hosted the author for a book signing. The entire fleet of SRV Construction bulldozers, dump trucks, and backhoes lined the streets for kids to climb on, honk horns, and flash lights.

The Langley Main Street Association Promotions Committee organized the event in collaboration with The Commons, a non-profit teaching coffee shop, SRV Construction Company, and Moonraker Bookstore. The event only cost the LMSA $150 and was staffed by volunteers.

“This was a fantastic way for the community to rally behind a challenging but necessary construction project,” said Sarah Hansen, Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “The end result is a beautiful new streetscape, successful businesses and a whole lot of excited kids!”

Excellence on Main Award

Lighted Tractor Parade

Awardee: Centralia Downtown Association

Award: Outstanding Promotional Event

Year: 2020

City: Centralia

Bringing people downtown is a mainstay of our revitalization work. We want locals and visitors to understand the history while enjoying the hum of a lively present. Events draw people downtown, but a truly outstanding promotion creates a one-of-a-kind experience. The Centralia Downtown Association’s Lighted Tractor Parade does exactly that! Held on the second Saturday in December, this holiday spectacular highlights Centralia’s agricultural heritage and showcases large and small businesses, farmers, civic groups, school groups, and local bands. It’s become a Centralia holiday tradition.

The Lighted Tractor Parade began 10 years ago with seven entries and a lot of doubters. Today, vehicle entries are capped at 90 and every available spot is filled within a few days. The parade lasts for over an hour, illuminating downtown streets with over 100,000 lights on creative and colorful floats, and is enjoyed by 15,000 spectators. Along with the grand marshal, always a local farmer, the Grinch accompanied by Whos from Whoville with huge, sculpted hair surprised and delighted the crowd last winter. Santa is always on the last entry – often on a sleigh pulled by eight giant Harleys decked out in dazzling lights.

The Lighted Tractor Parade is the kind of event where families, couples, and friends create treasured holiday memories. And its reputation is spreading. Local hotels book to capacity well in advance, and the downtown Centralia Amtrak station is hopping as people from all over the northwest come to marvel at the ingenuity and originality that goes into each entry. These visitors often arrive early to buy holiday gifts at downtown shops, bringing a splash of outside dollars into Centralia’s economy. Even with growing regional renown, the heart and soul of the event is the hard-working community of Centralia.