With summer sunshine winking around the corner of spring, Clark County residents are eager to get out and enjoy the fair-weather festivals they missed during the past two years. Almost all of Clark County’s big outdoor events will be back in full force, with two significant exceptions: the Recycled Arts Festival and the Historic Trust’s Independence Day fireworks display, which will be replaced by the community-picnic-style Summer Fest on July 3.
It’s a hard blow for those who were anticipating the return of these Vancouver traditions, but both cancellations are a result of changes wrought by the pandemic. There are fewer resources and fewer staff. There aren’t as many law enforcement personnel available for security. Inflation has increased expenses across the board, from vendors’ food and supplies to the infrastructure and insurance costs necessary for large-scale events.
“Everything is more expensive, from port-a-potties to trophies to T-shirts. It’s probably 25 percent more expensive than the last parade,” said Hazel Dell Parade of Bands organizer Brad Lothspeich. “We’re lucky that we have generous sponsors. We do have some in reserves but next year we’ll have to figure out what to do. We’ll give it our best shot and hopefully the community will support it.”
The parade is the first big event this festival season as it marks its 56th year on Saturday. It begins at 10:30 a.m. at Clark County Fire District 6, 8800 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave. The parade is welcoming the largest number of school bands that it’s ever had — 27, said Lothspeich — although the total number of parade entries is down. Nevertheless, thousands of viewers are expected to line the route, which follows Northeast 63rd Street from Hazel Dell Avenue to Highway 99, then travels along Highway 99 to 78th Street. Lothspeich reckons it’s the largest event in Clark County, with the exception of the Clark County Fair.
“If the sun’s out, we’ll have 20,000 people watching. This is a big deal,” Lothspeich said. “Counting the band kids, we have about 4,000 people in the parade, and then you consider the parents and grandparents and friends of kids in the bands. We have people that were in the parade 40 years ago that come back and watch their grandkids in the parade.”
As for the Recycled Arts Festival, it may return next year, said Camille Shelton, environmental outreach educator for Clark County Public Health. Festival organizers usually start strategizing in November, which gives them an eight-month lead on the June festival. However, everything was still in flux with COVID-19 in the fall of 2021. Shelton said they weren’t able to start planning until March of this year, by which time all the resources necessary to produce a large event had already been booked by other festivals.
Meanwhile, Woodland’s Planters Days is gearing up for its largest event yet from June 16 to 19, said Jim Bays, secretary of the 2022 Woodland Planters Days board. This year is the festival’s 100th anniversary and organizers intend to make it memorable. Bays said he’s excited to see attendees fill the town, with old friends greeting each other in the streets.
“The last two years, we’ve had a celebration, but it’s been virtual,” Bays said. “All of that is gone this year and we’re going full out and hoping to make it bigger than ever. I think the whole community is just looking forward to getting back to the tradition we’ve had for so many years.”
Bays reeled off several centennial Planters Days happenings, including a beerfest, a “bingo bash,” royal court reunions, a beard and mustache growing contest and the biggest fireworks display in the event’s history. (Fireworks aficionados, take note.)
Tacos in the Park is a relative newcomer to Vancouver’s summer festival scene. The inaugural event was held in 2019 in Esther Short Park’s Propstra Square before going on hiatus for two years due to the pandemic. Organizer Jeff Angelo said the June 10-12 event will spread out to make everyone comfortable — those who want to enjoy the crowds and those who’d like their tacos with a side of social distancing.
“It’s a bit risky. We’re the first ones out of the gate this season in the whole park, the second weekend of June,” Angelo said. “It gets you worried. Are people ready to come out for festivals? Are they itching to do things or are they going to stay home?”
The 2019 festival was a success, said Angelo, with long lines of taco-loving attendees who braved the occasional rainy downpour. Angelo said he’s glad for the two-year pause because the organizers have had time to consider what worked and what didn’t. They’re using that knowledge to produce a bigger, better event, with more tacos, more beer and a pop-up arcade.
Even so, he said that expenses are about three times what they were in 2019. Angelo is betting that despite costs, the event will be well-attended enough to raise significant funds for The Arc of Southwest Washington, a nonprofit agency that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He said he’s hoping that appetites for tacos will translate into ticket sales, no matter how people feel about the pandemic.
“Honestly, I have a love for tacos,” Angelo said. “Everyone knows that. It’s not a secret. Tacos are what I know, so we decided this would be a good idea. We’re going to roll the dice and hope that people come out in droves.”