by Carolyn Bick
Festival organizer Benjamin Hunter is excited for the upcoming South End Heritage Festival on July 27, an event meant to blend a musical festival and the Rainier Valley Heritage Festival.
Hunter helped to organize the free fledgling event, along with local musician Gus Marshall and other members of Community Arts Create, a nonprofit Hunter founded in 2011. Hunter said Marshall had approached him about holding a South End folk festival, and the pair combined it with the Rainier Valley Heritage Festival to create the South End Heritage Festival. The Heritage Festival had marched through the streets of South Seattle for 25 years. However, for the last two years, there has been no parade — and nothing quite on that scale to bring together and showcase the South End’s musicians and artisans.
“It’s to demonstrate how powerful the arts can be for our soul, and also to demonstrate how vibrant arts and culture is in the South End,” Hunter said.
But it’s also about more than that. Hunter said that South End is going through dramatic changes due to gentrification, which is pushing families and long-time community businesses out of the area. While it’s been happening for a while, Hunter said, it’s become much more apparent in recent years, with modern, uniform townhouses replacing decades-old single-family homes, and local business owners shuttering their doors, unable to keep up with rising costs.
Even if it’s not an antidote, this festival is meant to be a breather from all that. Featuring musicians and artists, the festival will run from Columbia City all the way through Hillman City. In and amongst the artist stalls and musical venues, there will be two block parties, which are meant to help guide people through the business districts, thereby giving local businesses a boost.
The festival also provides an opportunity for displaced South Enders to come back, beyond just wanting to eat a favorite restaurant, or shop at a favorite business. It’s a way to allow people to engage with each other through art, and reinvigorate the spirit of South Seattle, Hunter said.
“We are starting off small now, but I would hope that this could turn into a much larger festival that really does represent the entire South End, and the panoply of cultures and traditions and backgrounds that make up this unique and rich and culturally diverse section of Seattle,” Hunter said.
The festival will run from 12 p.m.–10 p.m. from Columbia City through Hillman City along Rainier Avenue South. Though the festival is free, anyone who wishes to donate may visit the festival’s website.
The South Seattle Emerald is a sponsor of the South End Heritage Festival.
Featured Image: Community Arts Create’s South End Heritage Festival is one of several events the group organizes, including the Back Street Bazaar, pictured here. (Courtesy Photo)