by Marcus Harrison Green
Heavy winds and a perpetual downpour did little to dampen the spirits of the more than 3500 people who filtered through Rainier Beach Safeway’s parking lot on Halloween afternoon for the second annual Boo Bash at the Beach.
Fast becoming one of the South End’s seminal fall events, along with the Columbia City Neighborhood Trick-or-Treat, the Boo Bash saw few ghouls and goblins synonymous with the holiday as most of the youngsters in attendance had their faces covered by the likenesses of popular characters from films like the comic book inspired Big Hero 6 and the Avengers. (If the Bash was any indication Marvel Comics and its parent company Disney are making a killing off licensing fees this Halloween)
Entertainment boomed off the large, covered stage as the Rainer Beach Dance Center performed the “Thriller” dance, followed by RBDC dance instructor Jenna Mitchell teaching the moves to kids from the audience. A few costumed youngsters climbed onstage to show off their moves. Classic and currently popular tunes were belted out by local entertainers Michael Cagle and Ryan Hazy.
But given the holiday in question, the event’s main drawing power, at least for the swath of pre-teens who braved the rain, should come as no surprise.
“I’m here for the Candy!” said 7-year old Jasoney Willis. Willis dressed as a ninja, soon made his way to one of the 36 booths set up at the event that offered kids candy, toys, safety gear, and information about their services. Some of the booths offered arts and crafts, showing families that they can create, rather than buy, costumes and masks.
“Events like Boo Bash aren’t just about coming together, they’re also about informing (the community) about the resources we have here. That is crucial to building a strong and healthy community so South End families can be supported.” Said Zac Davis, of the family service provider Atlantic Street Center.
Indeed, organizers of the event wanted the fun and games it provided to be complimented by an opportunity to interact, not only with fellow residents, but also local public servants. Led by the Seattle Police Department, a sponsor of Boo Bash, SPD brought a strong contingent of friendly officers. “Detective Cookie”, AKA Det. Denise Bouldin, had her chess sets out as she handed out cookies. Bicycle officers (wearing shorts!) handed out candy, and an amazed and grinning South Precinct Commander Mike Washburn took it all in as he was escorted around by one of the earliest supporters of Boo Bash, Det. Ann Martin.
Youth leaders were a big part of this year’s event, led by the Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s Corner Greeters. RBAC’s Corner Greeter program works in conjunction with the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative and Rainier Beach: A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth. True to their mission, the “Youth Engagement Workers” engaged in the planning and set up of Boo Bash, breaking down tents in drenching rain after the event.
The Rainier Beach High School Varsity Cheer Squad, which served as Boo Bash Ambassadors to local schools, helped manage several booths as crowds overwhelmed event staff. The Rainier Beach Ultimate Frisbee Team handed out thousands of flying disks and reflectors, provided by event sponsor Seattle City Light.
Firefighters from the Rainier Beach Fire Station brought their ladder truck – which youngsters scrambled over – and let future firefighters try on helmets and jackets. Boo Bashers made their way from tent covered booths, which included those manned by representatives from Seattle Parks and Recreation – a “Monster Sponsor”; the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities, and Seattle City Council members Bruce Harrell and Tim Burgess.
The latter two weren’t the only delegates from City Hall, as Seattle mayor Ed Murray paid a visit to the event, and was presented with a Boo Bash sweatshirt by “Boo Boss” Cindi Laws. People quickly swarmed the Mayor for photos and hugs.
“He looks kind of like the Great Pumpkin,” said a young man dressed as Groot, the part tree, part man creature from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
And though fun permeated through most of the afternoon, the rain showers and chilly temperatures that dipped down into the mid 50’s did see some attendees periodically retreat inside Safeway’s for shelter.
“These kids are brave, because if it were me I’d be inside where it’s dry,” said a heavily bundled Alice Wynters, who brought along two of her children from Rainer Beach to stock up on pre-trick-or-treating candy.
The commitment of Safeway to Boo Bash cannot be understated. Boo Bash would not exist were it not for Mike Stampalia, the General Manager of the Rainier Beach Safeway. Cindi and Mike came up with the basic idea last year, and the Cindi pitched Boo Bash to Safeway’s corporate office, which provided substantial funding, and six area Safeway stores had booths. This year, seven Safeway stores jumped on board, not just creating inventive booths and big give-aways, but the all-important volunteers to set up and break down the event. At a time when two big grocery stores closed in the Rainier Valley, Safeway continues to invest in our community in really big ways.
And that investment is important, when 3500 people show up for a big party! “Despite the weather, this turn out today says a lot about the unity of the community in the South End. And if we build it, they will come,” said Michael Passian, a South End resident and leader in RBAC’s Corner Greeters, who volunteered to set up and take down the event.
“I saw a need for something safe, something fun, something that would keep our kids here in their own neighborhood on Halloween, said Boo Bash founder Cindi Laws, who lives just up the hill from Rainier Beach. “Working with Mike Stampalia of Safeway, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and Det. Ann Martin of SPD, we built something that was very successful in its first year. This year, many more people came forward to ensure this event would happen, and our job was much, much easier, despite the rain.
“People were reaching out to Martha Winther, Director of the Rainier Beach Community Center; Jenny Frankl of the Department of Neighborhoods; and Maia Segura of the Rainier Beach Merchants Association to find out how to get involved”, said Laws.
Raising money was a little easier this year, helpful when the majority of the funding comes from local corporate anchors and local businesses. Penniless Projects donated the poster design, and local printers Saigon Printing and Boruck Printing gave steep discounts on posters, flyers, signs and sweatshirts.
“The number of people here is just remarkable. Nothing is dampening our spirits. Nothing is going to stop the Beach. The beach prevails,” said Laws as she beamed a smile that provided its own sun break through the dark clouds above, all the while stocking the bags of children with cavity inducing sweets. “This year, Boo Bash established itself as the place to be. We will need to step it up – big time – next year, since it is clear that the event will double in size again, and we’ll need a lot more stuff to hand out. It will be ideal if neighbors would band together to sponsor a booth, much like they come together on ‘Night Out Against Crime’. Rainier Beach is rising!”
Echoed Betty Lowe, who lives less than a ten-minute walk away from where the Bash was held:
“This shows If it’s the right event the people will come together out here. (Rainer Beach) is probably Seattle’s best kept secret. This is probably one of the best neighborhoods in Seattle. The rest of Seattle just doesn’t know it.”