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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: 2016 Spokane Street Music Week buys 127,130 meals for food bank

Peter Rivera dances with Celia Benzel as Doug Clark performs on Main Avenue during Street Music Week on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Peter Rivera dances with Celia Benzel as Doug Clark performs on Main Avenue during Street Music Week on Thursday, June 16, 2016, in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The 14th annual Spokane Street Music Week officially expired at 1 p.m. Friday amid blue skies, sunny dispositions and an unexpected windfall.

John Huckabay handed a piece of paper to me.

I unfolded it to find a check made out to Second Harvest food bank on behalf of Street Music Week – for $15,000.

That’s the biggest donation since I began this adventure, strumming my guitar around town all alone during the noon hours for a single business week.

Back then I was just trying to make a point about how our street music could be a whole lot better, but a funny thing happened.

The single week expanded into an annual affair that now sees some 200 musicians and entertainers practicing their art on the sidewalks of downtown Spokane, the Garland District and Coeur d’Alene.

And every cent collected by this army of benevolent buskers goes to the food bank, where a single dollar can be turned into five meals.

This year’s grand total is $25,426, although that figure should change a little as online donations trickle in. (You can still contribute through our website,

Huckabay, a North Idaho businessman and philanthropist, gave $10,000 to Street Music Week last year. He told me he decided to up the ante when he realized that our donations this week had been a bit slower than usual.

That’s true. A couple days of cold, windy weather didn’t help. But it’s too easy to get caught up in digits and decimal points. Street Music Week is about having fun, and the number that counts is $143,426.

That’s how much the event has raised since Street Music Week began. Multiply that by five and you get a staggering 717,130 meals.


“I like what you’re doing,” Huckabay said.

All the credit goes to an amazing and dedicated team effort.

At the top is Jim Lyons, Street Music Week’s vice commander. He gets things done to the point of even writing a news story about Street Music Week for the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Lyons showed up the first year I put out the call for help and hasn’t missed a single day since.

Julie Shepard-Hall brought Garland into the fun, with the Lake City effort being organized this year by Luke Emerson and Dr. Ben Perschau.

As usual, much love goes to my Street Music Week dream team: The Spokesman-Review marketing department; the graphic artist Nita Alexander, who somehow manages to make the posters and artwork look better each year; Mary Beth Donelan, the official Street Music Week money manager; and finally, Matt Monroe, who transforms the artwork every year into appealing keepsake busker buttons.

Thanks also to event co-sponsors Kootenai Health and Community Health Association of Spokane.

This year’s Street Music Week flew by, but some memories stand out, like these …

  • My friend and Spokane rocker Myles Kennedy singing “Watch Over You,” an achingly beautiful song he wrote, on the sidewalk near the downtown Starbucks. A video of the performance, placed on Street Music Week’s Facebook page, racked up 256,000 plays and counting.
  • Speaking of videos: The homemade commercial on our website created by Carey Eyer is a must-see. It features his two daughters, Neila and Ivy, who are two of the cutest kids you’ve ever seen. Hilarious!
  • Lyons recalls a conversation he had with a guitar player he’d never met. “He told me he came down to see what Street Music Week was all about,” Lyons said. “But when he saw what everybody was doing he told his family that he was going to come back every day.”
  • Mike Green, an accomplished juggler, came all the way from North Idaho to show Spokane a new move he has created called the Wallace Flip. “It’s a double-flip pattern with three apogees,” he said. “I sneak in an extra double-flip in the middle. Things can get exciting.”
  • Just after singing his second song, Peter Rivera, former lead singer of Rare Earth, was surprised to hear the fans that had gathered singing back at him. “Happy birthday to …” Yep. Thursday was Rivera’s 72nd birthday. Or, as he said, “the 22nd anniversary of my 50th birthday.”
  • And once again, the self-dubbed “Street Walkers” dropped by to donate the bag of money that they harvested during a year’s worth of daily walks.

That’s the sort of generosity that drives Street Music Week. See you all next year for the big 15th!

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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