A new event celebrating the region’s diverse cultures with food, decorations and performances during the holiday season will debut in Spokane Valley late this year.
Sam Song, along with business partner, Charity Doyl, will be hosting “Northwest Winterfest” from Nov. 29 to Dec. 31 at Mirabeau Meadows.
The event will attempt to be similar to the Washington State Chinese Lantern Festival held at Riverfront Park several years ago, except with a “winter holiday emphasis,” according to Spokane Valley city officials.
Northwest Winterfest will feature large, interactive, lighted displays of a North Pole village, a 160-foot long dragon, a castle with a nutcracker, a large Christmas tree stationed in the center of Mirabeau Meadows and a house with trees decorated to represent different cultures.
There will also be a small European holiday market, cultural exhibits, activities for children, performances and rotating food vendors with potential to showcase local chefs through a pop-up restaurant, Song said.
“I think it’s going to really ‘wow’ people how diversified our region is and we really do have a lot of organizations in our region that are interested in being part of this culture display,” he said.
Song said there aren’t a lot of events held during the winter and he hopes Northwest Winterfest will draw people from all over the region.
Song was instrumental in bringing the Chinese Lantern Festival to Spokane in 2015, which drew more than 80,000 people to Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane. The economic impact of the 5-week Chinese Lantern Festival was $4.6 million, according to Visit Spokane.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it personally and professionally,” he said. “We feel that it’s our duty to share cultures of different minority citizens. Our community has grown so much, but I don’t think there has been many opportunities for minorities to share and residents to have access to that.”
Song is shipping 10 containers full of decorations from Shanghai, China to Spokane Valley for the event. More than 2,000 artisans will construct the structures, some of which will be partially built in China.
Song and Doyl organized a Winterfest event last year featuring Christmas trees and performances at River Park Square and the Spokane Public Library.
Doyl wanted to bring the event to Spokane Valley.
“I am a Valley resident. I love this area and I am just so ecstatic that I would have the opportunity to showcase my hometown and share this wonderful event with my neighbors, my family and friends,” she said.
The event is expected to cost from $575,000 to $750,000; the admission fee will be under $15 in the first year of operation.
“The goal at least is to break even for the first year, so we can bring the event back year after year,” Song said.
The Spokane Valley City Council voted in favor of the event at a March 5 council meeting.
The city won’t incur any expenses for hosting the event, aside from possible snow removal costs, said Mark Calhoun, city manager for Spokane Valley.
“It’s very exciting. It’s an event within the city of the Spokane Valley and we are doing our best to attract as many of these as we can without breaking our own general fund in the process,” he said.
Spokane Valley Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said Northwest Winterfest could be a great, inclusive event for community groups.
“I think this is a great idea,” she said.
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins said the event would put Mirabeau Meadows to use in the winter off-season.
“It’s a tradeoff that we can easily afford, and it would be a productive time when nothing else is happening,” he said. “I see a tremendous upside here.”
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