by Susan Fried (words and photos)
The cars started lining up in the New Holly Campus Parking lot a half-hour before the 2020 Othello International Festival in a Box was to start on Friday afternoon. The event was scheduled to begin at 4 pm and go until 8 pm, but in less than an hour all 150 boxes had been given away.
The boxes contained all sorts of donated goodies for families including art supplies, sports equipment like basketballs, footballs and soccer balls, masks, hand sanitizers and gardening starts. In addition, each family received a gift certificate for Safeway. Also included in the boxes was a Big Day of Play play kit instructing people how to join the event online Saturday, as the Big Day of Play went virtual this year. Families also received a link for a Zoom soccer clinic hosted by the Seattle Sounders FC.
A mom with a car full of kids said she and her family go to the festival every year and she was happy festival organizers had “figured out a different way to make this happen for the kids. Because of COVID going on, everything is shut down and we’re the parade-goers, we’re the festival-goers, so it’s been really hard trying to figure out how to keep these guys entertained.”
Jordan Adams, a member of the Othello Park Alliance said that once all the usual summer events started getting canceled, the organizers of the International Festival decided why not do the festival in a box.
“We grab a box, people come through, we throw it in their car and they go home and have fun with it,” Adams said, “It was amazing, we barely even had to put out calls for volunteers or donations, people started stepping up, the local Safeway donated $3,000, so we were able to give out $40 gift cards to everybody.”
Other organizations donated sports equipment, art supplies and, in cooperation with the housing authority, people could get free COVID testing earlier in the day before the distribution of boxes started.
Longtime community activist and member of the Othello Park Alliance, Mona Lee, said that the festival in a box was a substitute for the usual festival, and it was a way to “give the community a gift, we feel what we should be doing is something for the community and to build community, while still practicing social distancing.”
Susan Fried is a Seattle-based photojournalist.