After some uncertainty, Festival returns this weekend

Meet volunteers who planned this year’s event
By Brandon Gustafson | Sep 05, 2019
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson The annual Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival returns for the 54th time to Mukilteo this Friday-Sunday. As always, there are lots of things to do for all ages, and lots of food options, as well. Check out our special Festival section under A&E.

One of Mukilteo’s longest-running traditions returns for the 54th time this weekend with the annual Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival.

While many in town know the drill – no parking at the waterfront, lots of options for food, drinks, and the kiddos, etc. (all of which is covered online under A&$) – this year’s Festival is a little different.

As The Beacon reported shortly before the 2018 Festival, as well as earlier this year, the event was struggling. Former Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce CEO and former Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival President Julie Martin told The Beacon that the event was in a downward spiral financially, and that it only broke even in 2017 because the City of Mukilteo chipped in to cover a large deficit. Additionally, the Festival had fewer and fewer volunteers throughout recent years.

In early February, it was announced that the annual Lighthouse Festival parade and Run-A-Muk 5k/10k were canceled for 2019 because they were costing more money to put on than the Festival was taking in. This was announced one week after The Beacon reported the Mukilteo Farmers Market was canceled for 2019 because of a lack of volunteers

Run-A-Muk ended up taking place Aug. 24 after Sunshine Productions agreed to run the race while giving all proceeds to the Festival. But the parade is still canceled, much to the dismay of many in town.

The downward spiral continued to this year, when Martin “raised the red flag,” alerting residents that Mukilteo’s biggest party of the year was on the ropes.

Steady declines in funds, sponsorships, and volunteers all contributed.

This led to a Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival Association meeting Feb. 28 that brought a large turnout of elected officials, residents, and business leaders to figure out what could be done, or if a Festival in 2019 was even a possibility.

Matt Martin, a local State Farm agent who was named 2019 Citizen of the Year earlier this summer, put it plainly.

“This is a first-class party we put on, and it’s expensive,” he said. “The community has to say how much they want it (to continue). How did we get here? Like any small town – the party is big and wonderful, and we don’t have the finances. It’s a grassroots effort now.”

After that meeting, some new blood joined the effort. Just from that meeting alone, three attendees joined the Festival board. That number grew over the year, and now, the Festival will be similar to the last few years, with the exclusion of the parade.

The Beacon reached out to those who have helped put on the Festival this year – many of them are new – to learn about their involvement and why they chose to get involved.

Starting at the top, Candace Felt is the new board president.

“We had a slow start this year,” Felt said, noting that many volunteers are new and this core group didn’t really get up and running until just a few months ago. “Our volunteers now, we want to start talks for next year’s Festival in October. We want to jump start things. We want to bring the parade back, and we want to bring back the full Festival that people know for next year.”

Felt said the volunteers all did great work to get the Festival ready for this year despite the short window.

“When we start in October, the goal is to have more volunteers,” she said. “Right now, we often have one person doing three people’s jobs. We need to continue to make it appeal to people (to volunteer). There’s not a crazy amount to do, but as the Festival gets closer, there is more to do.”

Another goal is to get residents thinking about the Festival year-round.

“We’ve had a lot of people say they only think about the Festival in August and September. We want to change that.”

Beth Lewis is one of the newest volunteers for 2019, and is a member of the board of directors. She also does most of the social media posts you may have seen across Twitter, Facebook, and Nextdoor. She joined the board in May.

“I read articles in The Beacon about the shortage of board members and volunteers,” she said about why she decided to join. “I moved to Mukilteo in mid-August 2018, and one of the first events my husband and I attended in Mukilteo was the Lighthouse Festival. It was great! So, when I saw there was a need, I thought it was the right thing to do as a new member of the community. A bonus is that I have made new friends among the other board members and volunteers, people I wouldn’t have gotten to know without volunteering.”

Lewis said residents should know that the volunteers are “an amazing group” and that many, like her, are learning on the fly.

“It has been a bit of a scavenger hunt for us to figure out what needed to be done, and we’re still short-handed, so everyone is working very hard.”

Anna Flaherty is also new to the Festival, joining in April, and like Lewis, is fairly new to Mukilteo. She is the Festival’s graphic designer.

“I have created the logo to go along with the designated theme of this years festival, ‘Sand & Sea.’ Beyond the logo, I have designed different marketing materials that are seen in the newspaper, on the website, social media, and Facebook.”

Flaherty said she is just starting her career in graphic design, so getting more experience along with volunteering is a win-win.

“Many people are volunteering their spare time to put on this festival, and it has been really cool to see everyone work together to make it a reality,” she said.

Resident Mario Lotmore is also in his first year with the Festival, and is a member of the group’s logistics team.

“It is a great way to not only learn more about the community but also help be a part of our largest community event,” Lotmore said. “When our community needs help, it is our civic duty to respond to the challenge.”

While Felt, Lewis, Flaherty, and Lotmore are all new to helping the Festival, there are still some familiar faces assisting in 2019.

Marvella Black described herself as a longtime volunteer with the Festival, and has also served on the board in the past. This year, her focus has been on food.

Like Lotmore, Black said it was her “civic duty” to assist with the city’s biggest event, but wanted people to know that past areas of concern could come back up again in the future.

“It is my fear that there are costs that if not dealt with will eventually make the Festival too expensive for not only participants, but also the Festival board, (which) may make future Festivals difficult to pull off,” she said.

Troylyn Goldsberry is also back helping the Festival, serving as a board member and as co-chair of the VIP dinner.

“Years ago, I served as treasurer for the Lighthouse Festival,” she said. “This is my second year serving as a board member and my first year involved with the VIP dinner.”

She, like many volunteers, heard about the Festival’s seemingly murky future, and decided to step up.

“The Festival has been around for over 50 years, and it’s a tradition that needs to continue for our amazing city. Every time I have seen the fireworks show I am still amazed as it is such a beautiful sight.”

Goldsberry has an extended family history in Mukilteo, which she said leads even further to her need to assist the Festival.

“My mom and two of my aunts were involved with the Daughters of American Colonists. They were all an integral part of the plaque placed at the Mukilteo Lighthouse,” she said. “Mrs. Thorliefson was one of my aunts and the Washington State Regent when this plaque was placed. To me, being a part of the Festival is carrying on a tradition of my family in a different way.”

The Festival is this weekend, Friday-Sunday, at Lighthouse Park. The event is 4 p.m.-midnight Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

For more Festival specifics, see A&E or visit mukfest.com.

 

 

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