by Ben Adlin
Rainier Avenue Radio will host a family-friendly holiday party and bazaar this Saturday, Dec. 11, at the historic Columbia City Theater.
The station’s first annual holiday bazaar will run from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the theater, at 4916 Rainier Ave. S., between South Ferdinand and South Hudson streets, and will feature handcrafted art and other creations from a dozen local vendors. Admission is free and open to all ages.
Tony Benton — known widely as “Tony B.” after more than two decades on the air locally, including on KUBE 93.3 and Sports Radio 950 KJR — says the event is meant to showcase the creativity of local makers and give artists an economic boost during the holiday season.
“We have a lot of small-business people in this community, and there isn’t a lot of access for them to own or rent property in Columbia City,” he told the Emerald. “This is at least one opportunity to have these folks sell their unique creations and one-of-a-kind items and hopefully grow their business to a larger community.”
Later in the afternoon, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the festivities will expand into a community holiday party. In addition to appearances by Santa and Frosty the Snowman, the party is slated to include musical performances on two separate stages; guest speakers, such as King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay; and a lip-sync show that’s become an annual favorite at the holiday events.
“We basically just have fun,” Benton said, describing the events as a community celebration of the holiday season. “And Columbia City needs something like that.”
Drinks and a catered dinner are available to the general public for a $75 suggested donation, which can be made online. Guests can register for the dinner by emailing email@example.com.
Proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test result are required for entry to the holiday events, and capacity may be limited due to social distancing. “I want to make sure that we are completely compliant with mandates and regulations, both State and County, and that people are safe,” Benton said.
Rainier Avenue Radio’s past holiday parties have served largely as fundraisers for the community organization, which broadcasts community news, music, talk programs, high school sports, and student radio projects on its various online streams. This year, Benton says, the focus is more on simply celebrating the station’s fans, supporters, and the more than 70 volunteers who contribute to its operation, including a wide array of on-air personalities.
“What they do is important, and sharing their voice is important,” he said. “For someone who’s volunteering, to do a show on a weekly basis, it can begin to get tiresome. But they put a lot of pride into what they do and sharing their narratives.”
Since the pandemic, the station has put special emphasis on highlighting how the virus was disproportionately impacting South End communities. It has interviewed City officials about the pandemic response, broadcast public service announcements in multiple languages, and worked to correct misconceptions about the coronavirus and vaccines. “For us, this emergency is why we were created as a radio station,” Benton told The Evergrey in April 2020.
The guest list for Saturday’s celebration includes early Seattle hip-hop DJ Nasty-Nes Rodriguez of Sir Mix-a-Lot fame and Vancouver, B.C.–based DJ Alibaba, as well as musical performances by South Sound artists Josephine Howell, Curtis Seals, and others.
This year’s holiday party — Rainier Avenue Radio’s third since the station’s launch in 2017 — is also particularly special because it will be in the Columbia City Theater, property which Benton and the Cultural Space Agency are in negotiations to acquire.
For the community radio station and digital media organization, it would be a return to its namesake street. Early broadcasts were uploaded out of a makeshift studio at the Columbia City library, and while the station briefly leased a space on Rainier Avenue, for most of the pandemic, it’s been operating out of a single room in a nearby house.
Benton said acquisition of the theater and Saturday’s holiday bazaar are focused on building stronger local communities and economies in the South End, which he described as “the concept of circulating dollars back within our community, back to our businesses, where people will spend money over and over again.”
Ben Adlin is a reporter and editor who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives on Capitol Hill. He’s covered politics and legal affairs from Seattle and Los Angeles for the past decade and has been an Emerald contributor since May 2020, writing about community and municipal news. Find him on Twitter at @badlin.
📸 Featured Image: Tony Benton (Photo: Phil Manzano)
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