In years past, planning for the annual Federal Way’s Festival Days would have been well under way by now.
Instead, committee members are taking a step back in search of better organization and cooperation.
The festival committee, city and Federal Way Chamber of Commerce are working together to consider options for future festival planning and management — and to find a permanent location for Festival Days and other large events.
Festival Days, which usually runs the last weekend in August at The Commons mall parking lot, has been postponed until next year.
Former Festival Days committee president Bob Hitchcock promises the festival will return.
“Festival Days is not dead by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Each of the city’s four annual festivals — Festival Days, Han Woo-Ri, Buds and Blooms, and Red, White and Blues — is organized by an independent board of directors.
For some time, holding the festivals has required a significant amount of time and dedication from volunteers.
“In general, execution of city-assisted community festivals has been difficult and burdensome because of fragmented leadership and a lack of consistent, sustained coordination among festival supporters, sponsors and the city,” city manager Neal Beets wrote in an April memorandum.
In October 2007, The Commons management announced the mall’s parking lot would no longer host the city’s festival.
The activities took away valuable parking and business from the mall, management said.
The Festival Days committee suddenly found itself with no place to locate the 2008 celebration. Hitchcock stepped down from his position in September and new leadership was needed as well.
The committee and Festival Days needed broader representation, variation and creativity, Hitchcock said. Each year the same citizens stepped up to organize the festival, and while these people were appreciated, the festival needed new energy, he said.
By December, grants necessary to hold the following year’s festival had not been secured. It was possible to hurriedly organize Festival Days within the eight-month timeframe, but the festival, and subsequently its attendees, would suffer, Hitchcock said.
“We have to be realistic,” Hitchcock said. “We don’t want to put on a festival that people say ‘Gee whiz, that was watered down.’”
Discussions are still under way, but Hitchcock believes the 2009 Festival Days will be better than ever before.
“This is the right time to make it right,” Hitchcock said.
With this decision made, the committee, city and chamber began discussing the future of large festivals in Federal Way.
In April, Beets suggested creating a community festival oversight board as a way to secure ongoing leadership, funding and permanent locations for the city’s celebrations. If an oversight board is created, it would likely have the responsibility of determining which festivals benefit the community, soliciting funding and seeking entertainment. Marketing, management and oversight would be consolidated, Beets said.
He imagines the board would have the leniency to discontinue or add festivals to meet the public’s needs. Community members and service organizations could be tapped to serve on the festivals board. At least 20 people or entities would serve the board well, Beets said.
An oversight board is just a suggestion, he said. It is meant as a starting point and way to initiate conversation, he said.
“To suggest that Festival Days is going to come back in the same form is not my expectation,” Beets said. “On the other hand, I doubt it will go away.”
Festival Days has grown in size and popularity each year, Hitchcock said. Residents and volunteers value the festival too much to let it go.
“We have an awful lot of people that want to see this happen,” he said.
Contact Jacinda Howard: firstname.lastname@example.org or (253) 925-5565.
Check it out:
This topic is expected to appear on the Parks Commission; Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services committee; and Lodging Tax Advisory committee agendas in June, Beets said. Meetings are open to the public. Visit www.cityoffederalway.com in the coming weeks for exact meeting times, dates and locations.