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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hillyard Festival still growing after more than 100 years

Owner Kerry Tritt allows 5-year-old Grayson Lord-Flynn to sit at the wheel of his 1910 Model T Ford Speedster during the Roll “N” Hillyard car show during the final day of the 2019 Hillyard Festival at Hillyard Skate Park on Aug. 4, 2019. Family-friendly fun on Sunday also included vendors, nondenominational worship, booths and games. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

The last day of the annual Hillyard Festival on Sunday was just getting started, but organizers were already thinking about how they could make the three-day celebration bigger and better in 2020, president Shawn Fissette said.

More than 7,000 people from around Spokane County made their way to Harmon-Shipley park over the first weekend in August for food, shopping, music and other entertainment.

“It brings everyone together,” Fissette said.

The event featured 80 retail booths and 11 food vendors — more than double the amount before Fissette and his all-volunteer team started managing it in 2016, he said. Future iterations of the festival could include a fourth day with carnival rides and games.

Mickeldean’s Ice Cream owner Michael Muenz said he’s had a booth at the festival for eight years and attends at least one event each weekend over the summer months.

“I love doing fairs and festivals,” he said. “You never get a bad customer and the kids are so cheerful.”

Out of the 90 kinds of ice cream he sells, the bestsellers are strawberry shortcake bars, Big Stick Popsicles and candy-flavored ice cream cups. But his favorite is the chocolate tacos.

Some of the highlights of the weekend included the 108th Hi-Jinx Parade, fireworks, pro-style wrestling and a car show.

At least 80 cars entered the third annual Roll “N” Hillyard Car Show. All proceeds from the $15 entry fee went to the Firefighters for Kids program.

Some of the rarest cars included a 1910 Ford Model T Speedster and 1958 Chevy Cameo truck. Many muscle cars, from Chevy Cameros to Pontiac GTOs, along with a VW Bug covered in Seahawks decorations were also on display.

Model T owner Kerry Tritt of Spokane said his car is all original parts and the next closest owner is in Seattle. He first bought it from a friend who had it sitting in his garage.

“I got it back into shape and here it is,” Tritt said.

He said he drives his Ford in parades and enters it in shows in hopes it will get kids interested in cars rather than social media.

Cameo owner Tom Driskill of Spokane Valley said his truck is from the last year the cars were made, making it one of 1,400 ever produced.

“Every once in a while you see one, but you don’t see them very often,” he said.

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, who represents northeast Spokane and has lived there for about 25 years, said the event is the product of a tight-knit community working together.

High school wrestlers paint lines on the ground for vendor booths, football players help set up tents and the Boy Scouts do all the garbage pick-up in exchange for a free booth, Fissette said. The T-shirt design comes from a local student contest and all the bands perform for free.

“This is little America here in Hillyard,” Fagan said. “We get big stuff done.”

And any registration fees that go beyond breaking even for festival costs are put back into later events, like the local craft fair and free Santa photos during the Hillyard tree lighting, Fissette said.

“We’re not trying to make money,” Fissette said. He added that in addition to having a fun, free event, the festival is also focused on promoting local businesses and musicians.

Fissette was raised in Hillyard, so he remembers going to the festival when he was a kid and continues running into friends from grade school there to this day. Organizers say the first festival was held in 1911.

Fissette said something he loves to see is grandparents running around with their grandchildren at the festival.

“For the older crowd, it sparks rejuvenation from when they were kids,” Fissette said.