As the Valleyfest community celebration enters its 21st year, the event is still experiencing growing pains. There are significant changes to this year’s “Hearts of Gold” parade at 7:30 p.m. Friday that kicks off the event in Spokane Valley.
The direction of the parade has switched, and the route is now longer. The parade will begin where it used to end, at New Life Assembly of God Church, 10920 E. Sprague Ave. The parade will travel east along Sprague and end at Robie Road.
The other major change will be the lack of candy raining down on small children during the parade. In recent years children have been darting into traffic to get candy, and the drivers of large trucks and floats couldn’t see them in the dark. Last year, despite warnings from parade organizers, parents still let their children dash out into the road, said longtime Valleyfest volunteer and board member Gail Bongiovanni. “Sometimes it was the parents who were running out,” she said.
“It’s too dangerous,” said Valleyfest director Peggy Doering.
But volunteers have come up with a solution that will allow children to get their treats. A section of Sprague between University and Bowdish roads will close early at 5:45 p.m. Candy will be handed out to children in that area beginning at 6:15 p.m. There will also be three live music stages set up along Sprague during the candy giveaway. “We have kids groups that want to perform,” said Doering. “It’s a party.”
This year’s parade has 127 entries and is the longest yet. Spokane Valley Fire Department Chief Mike Thompson will be the grand marshal.
Valleyfest events move to Mirabeau Park and CenterPlace Saturday and Sunday.
All of the old favorites are back on Saturday, including the pancake breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 at CenterPlace, the classic car show, the planetarium, a beer garden, a fun run, live entertainment and booths.
Most events will take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, except for star gazing with the Spokane Astronomical Society from 7 to 10 p.m. and the outdoor movie, “Yogi Bear,” at 7:30 p.m.
The annual Taste of the Valley at CenterPlace on Saturday will feature 14 Washington wines. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided by Red Rock Catering. Participating wineries include Latah Creek, Liberty Lake Wine Cellars, Arbor Crest, Mountain Dome and Knipprath. Tickets for the tasting event are $40 in advance or $50 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by calling (509) 922-3299 or at Appleway Chevrolet, 8500 E. Sprague, and Anderson and Peretti, 720 N. Argonne Road, Suite F.
The Valleyfest themes this year are chemistry and forestry. Tree seedlings will be handed out to those who want them and the Star Discovery Bus will offer hands-on science experiments and a robot. The hot air balloons launches are scheduled on the CenterPlace north lawn at 6:40 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting. A night glow launch is planned for 8 p.m. Saturday.
Children age 14 and under can fish at the falls behind CenterPlace Saturday, but visitors will notice a security presence at the man-made falls after the pond is stocked with fish. In years past people were catching the fish early and leaving them on the ground to rot, said Doering. “We’d like to have some fish left for the event,” she said.
Three entertainment stages will be bustling on Saturday and Sunday with everything from kid-friendly performances to live music. Scheduled performers include Milonga, the Big Mumbo Blues Band, Nu Jack City and dancers.
The Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom will have several stage shows featuring an alligator, python, lemur and barn owl, Doering said. Children can get their pictures taken with the animals during Valleyfest.
The number of booths in the meadow has jumped to more than 200, Doering said, which is up 50 from last year. “We had to close the booth registration,” she said. “I had to stop so people could walk.”
Sunday’s events in the park will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The schedule includes a worship service, trail ride, live entertainment and Responsible Dog Ownership Day. Local animal shelters will offer animals that are up for adoption, and people can watch a Spokane Skyhounds disc competition and demonstrations in agility and flyball. The Spokane Valley Fire Department arson dog Mako is also expected to be in attendance.
A new event this year is dove races. Trained doves will be released every half hour on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m. A view of their home roost near Green Bluff will be broadcast live via webcam and people can make guesses on which bird will arrive first.
Parking at Mirabeau Park will not be available. Cars can be parked at the nearby Pinecroft Business Park at Mirabeau Parkway and Pines Road or at Spokane Valley Mall. On Saturday the Spokane Transit Authority will provide shuttle buses to both locations for 75 cents for the entire day. For bicycles, a bike corral will be set up at Mirabeau Park.