Submitted by: City of Bellingham, written by Amy Cloud

New “signature events” are coming to Bellingham in 2020. Five years after the popular Bellingham SeaFeast launched as a signature event, meant to highlight community attributes and encourage commerce, two more have been selected to receive start-up funding.

Bellingham’s Economic Development Manager Tara Sundin announced that the City has confirmed the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee’s selections for the newest signature events. After reviewing nine total applications, the committee selected Northwest Tune-Up to receive $75,000 and Strait to Sound to receive $55,000 to launch this year.   

SeaFeast, launched in 2014, was Bellingham’s first ‘signature event.’ Photo courtesy: City of Bellingham

The purpose of Bellingham’s signature event program is to launch an annual event that will achieve several criteria: encourage commerce, maximize national and regional exposure, enhance the existing quality of life for residents and become a self-sustaining event. Bellingham SeaFeast, the City’s first signature event, has done so highlighting the working waterfront and its community importance, while attracting visitors and vendors.  

“I am thrilled for Bellingham,” said Pinky Vargas, City Council member and chair of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.  “These events highlight what makes us special—??our natural beauty, stewardship, creativity and free-spirited nature. 

“Bellingham is already known for amazing recreational opportunities as well as a strong arts and music scene. These two new events will showcase those features and undoubtably grow to be strong, long-lasting community festivals. I was impressed with the talent embodied in both management teams and I’m excited to attend the events.” 

Northwest Tune-up is a multi-faceted three-day festival showcasing Bellingham’s bike, music and craft beer culture. The on-trail portion of the Northwest Tune-Up takes place on Galbraith Mountain, a short bike ride from downtown. The festival also includes a four-to-six stage enduro, a cyclocross race, group trail rides, skills clinics and bicycle demos from the industry’s top brands. The waterfront segment will offer spectator-friendly races, kids’ events and demonstrations.

“We are thrilled to have been chosen for the Tourism’s Signature Event grant,” said Eric Brown, Northwest Tune-Up co-creator. “We are so excited to showcase three elements that help define Bellingham and make it so amazing—bikes, beer and music.”

“Our festival will bring people from near and far to celebrate, race and ride on Galbraith Mountain and at the Waterfront on beautiful Bellingham Bay,” added Brandon Watts, Northwest Tune-Up co-creator. “Mark your calendars and lube your chains, we’ll see you at the Northwest Tune-Up!” 

The City committee responsible for selecting a new signature event was so impressed with the proposals, members recommended grant-funding a second event. Strait to Sound is a two-day music event focusing on talent emerging from the British Columbia area and the Pacific Northwest. Featured musicians will be invited to play in downtown Bellingham music venues. The event will also offer artist education sessions with an emphasis on conducting business and travel between B.C. and Bellingham.  

“We are excited to launch Strait to Sound,” said Phil O’Sullivan of Artist Home. “Bellingham is in a unique position to help create a lot of shared energy around music and art between the US and Canada. We are grateful for this funding from the City and can’t wait for October!”   

Artist Home is a company of culture-makers, community-builders and event producers who have served the Pacific Northwest for over 10 years. Since its inception, Artist Home has become prominent in the northwest’s music community by creating one-of-a-kind festival experiences and providing positive support for artists.  Artist Home is known for events such as Timber! Outdoor Music Festival held in Carnation and Timbrr! Winter Music Festival held in Leavenworth, Wash.

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood said the two new signature events will add to a vibrant base of attractions such as Ski to Sea, the Bellingham NW Wine Festival and the Chuckanut Writers’ Conference.

“I look forward to celebrating these recreation and arts offerings with our entire community,” said Mayor Fleetwood. “I am confident these events will enhance and expand the visitor experience with something new that strengthens Bellingham’s reputation as a great place for recreation, food, arts and culture.”  

Northwest Tune-Up is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, June 5-7, 2020. Strait to Sound will be Friday and Saturday, Oct. 2-3, 2020.   For event details and to purchase your tickets, please visitwww.nwtuneup.com and www.straittosound.com.

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