Story By Corban Brantley
With “Eye of the Tiger” playing on the loud speakers the announcer shouted, “Everybody make some noise” as Zsolt Szadovszki, the winner of Bellingham’s annual Ski to Sea race, started up the beach to ring the finish bells, signaling his team’s victory and the unofficial start of the Historic Fairhaven Festival on Sunday, May 26.
The Old Fairhaven Association, a non-profit group that preserves and promotes Fairhaven, and its Festival Committee founded the festival about 30 years ago when a committee member realized that Ski to Sea brought a lot of people to Fairhaven and they could use that opportunity to raise money for the district, said John Servais, the publisher of Fairhaven.com and former Festival Committee member.
Jordan Tarrida, the Co-Chair of the Festival Committee said “the festival is the second biggest in the state…[and] the beer garden is the largest in the Pacific Northwest.” The beer garden was a fenced off area where attenders could grab a beer while chatting with friends and listening to live music near the main stage, and was sponsored by Seattle’s Red Hook Brewery but didn’t feature any Whatcom County breweries. This year 60 kegs were emptied by the event attenders.
“Ski to Sea Sale” was a sign you would see in virtually every shop window. With Ski to Sea being Bellingham’s largest competitive event it is no wonder there were so many simultaneous events tied to it including the Historic Fairhaven Festival.
The food vendors served a variety of foods including corn-on-the-cob, cotton candy, hot dogs, gyros, tacos and more. Tarrida said that he makes sure that the best foods are offered and no two booths offer the same thing.
The main stage and the acoustic stage on the Village Green featured music performed by local bands including, Space and Monkey Wrench. There were about 50 vendor’s booths from local shops and eateries and other family entertainment including art exhibits, breakdancers, and tai chi demonstrations put on by “The Chinese Community”, a group of Chinese performers.
Among the vendors were Costco and Comcast offering special memberships as well as Bellingham’s Unknown Board Shop and plenty of local clothing and art businesses.
There was limited parking at the event so guests either had to pay $5-10 for parking or take advantage of the $3 round-trip “Shuttle Up!” service, a shuttle that ran from Western Washington University’s park-and-ride to downtown or to Fairhaven, just a block away from the festival, with shuttles provided by Bellair Charters.
There was also a bike corral where attenders could park their bikes for free and have them looked after by festival security.
This year’s festival wasn’t as successful as in previous years due to rainy weather and the recent Skagit River bridge collapse said Tarrida. Only an estimated 20,000 people attended compared to last year’s 40,000, and the festival brought in a gross amount of $40,000 compared to last year’s $60,000.
All the net revenue from sponsors, rent paid by vendors, the beer garden and the transportation service goes back into supporting Fairhaven by preserving buildings and promoting future events.
Servais said he wanted to make sure that people know that the Old Fairhaven Association “is not a burden on tax payers.” Any money from the government comes in the form of grants which are competed for and only available when there is