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Grants for Events and Festivals

By Ava Diaz

Last August, with help from the Washington State Department of Commerce, the Washington Festivals and Events Association, and ArtsWA, 284 recipients in 36 of the state’s 39 counties received $3.3 million in grant relief (from a $10.6 million award) from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to revive their festivals and events.

Highlighting legacy events—events operating for at least five years prior—this grant will provide the resources to maintain traditions that were temporarily paused from the effects of COVID-19.

“The vast majority of festivals and events, a little more than three quarters, occur in towns with fewer than 250,000 residents. Some of these activities have been around for 20, 30, even 100 years in Washington, and are something Washingtonians look forward to all year long,” says Robb Zerr, senior managing director of the Washington State Department of Commerce.

In addition to supporting the heritage of these local events, this funding will also increase business revenue, preserve the region’s diversity through art and history, create a plethora of activities for visitors, and offer a space for entertainers and artisans to showcase their craft in the community, says Bruce Skinner, executive director of the Washington Festival and Events Association. “Most of [the events and festivals] play a large role in preserving culture,” he adds.

Zerr notes that “[Events and festivals] provide a central gathering place that builds a sense of community. It creates a sense of place and belonging. People just don’t live in a community because it is convenient or affordable. They live there because of the character it has, the values it reflects, and the pride of its citizens. This is reflected in these small festivals and events.”

The recipients will receive anywhere from $178 to $35,000 based on various operational needs and losses documented over the last two years of the pandemic. It is encouraged that the funds go toward infrastructural updates such as security, staging, lighting, and temporary fencing, as well as staff and labor costs.

Any remaining funds from the endeavor will support the development of a tourism academy to train new generations of professionals and a disaster planning app to help businesses navigate future industry disruptions.

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