Spokane wasn’t on the World Subud Council’s radar until some Lilac City residents put it there.
The international organization was homing in on Palm Springs, Calif., as its 1997 convention site, but wasn’t thrilled because temperatures in the Southern California city exceed 100 degrees in August.
Subud members had researched 400 university towns to no avail, finding that bunk beds in dorm rooms wouldn’t fit lodging needs and that few campuses would host the extensive children’s program, planned for 500 young people.
“A lot of the universities were like, ‘Well, no, we don’t want you to run a summer camp,”’ said Rifka Bullen, site coordinator for the Subud World Congress.
Then Philip Quakenbush, a Subud member who lived in Spokane for 15 years but moved to Seattle two years ago, piped up.
“I knew Spokane met the requirements that had been set out,” Quakenbush said. “I said to myself, ‘The Convention Center, the Opera House and the Ag Trade Center should do it.”’
Quakenbush called another Subud member, Elissa Mills of Spokane, and asked her to check capacity at the convention center and hotel availability.
When Mills reported back, the national Subud chairman got excited.
“He said: ‘Wow. That sounds good.’ That’s when I started to realize what wonderful facilities we have in Spokane,” Mills said.
Subud representatives visiting the city were pleased that Riverfront Park, the Spokane River and downtown shops and restaurants were within walking distance of hotels. They found people to be friendly and accommodating. Finally, the city’s connection to Native American culture and history helped land the international gathering for Spokane.