For Jessica Gean, Vader May Day has always been a big part of summer for her family.
She suspects she is not the only one looking forward to local community festivals being able to return in some fashion this year.
“There’s a lot of families, especially with kids, who really look forward to that one day,” Gean said. “The whole season of festivals is something our smaller towns really look forward to.”
Most of Southwest Washington’s community festivals and events are returning after a one-year hiatus. With the exception of a few scaled back activities, community festivals across the state were canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. Vader May Day, usually the first event that kicks off the area’s festival season, was canceled in late March last year. Gean said making the decision was difficult for the Vader May Day committee because, like most other communities, the organizers are volunteers who begin planning the events months in advance.
“We had everything planned out and it was going to be amazing,” Gean recalled. “To have to cancel and put those things we started on the back burner was a bummer. It was kind of a punch to the gut.”
With COVID-19 regulations still in place for many activities, many communities are cautioning visitors that their 2021 events may look a little different and they should be prepared for changes. In general, organizers said it is best to check with your favorite event’s website or social media platforms before visiting to get the most up-to-date information possible. State COVID-19 reopening phases will determine what events and offerings are available. In Vader, plans for this year have been scaled back a bit. Organizers wanted to provide a chance for the community to gather but are asking visitors to please be mindful of continued safety protocols.
“We want to make sure everyone can still keep their distance and practice the safety skills we’ve learned in the last year,” Gean said.
In the East Lewis County city of Mossyrock, the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions within the state made planning an event of their annual Blueberry Festival’s magnitude impossible. The town can welcome 10,000 to 15,000 visitors in a single weekend during the Blueberry Festival, a number not yet sanctioned by state COVID-19 protocols. The Mossyrock Area Action League (MAAL), which plans the annual festival, decided instead to pivot and offer a Freedom Festival on the Fourth of July weekend. Chris Sasser, treasurer for MAAL, explained that the Mossyrock Freedom Festival will be focused on celebrating America’s first responders and will include a parade, vendors, live music, a beer garden and a fireworks display.
“We’re really excited to get back out and do something that everyone can get out of their houses and enjoy,” Sasser said.
Fans of Mossyrock’s famous berry crops need not worry, Sasser added, because plans are already in the works for the 2022 Mossyrock Blueberry Festival.
Ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 phases and the devastating blow of canceling last year has put a strain on some local festivals. The fate of the Napavine Funtime Festival, usually held the third weekend of July, is still up in the air right now, said Jerry Owens, who has been involved with the event since it began 44 years ago. Owens said they recently held an organizational meeting for a 2021 Funtime Festival but he does not yet feel like they have enough volunteers to make it happen. He remains hopeful more people could still step forward to help bring back this important tradition for Napavine.
“The gratifying thing is just the people coming through, kind of like at the fair, coming and seeing each other and having fun and participating in things and just forgetting about their troubles for a while,” Owens said.
Vader May Day will once again kick off this year’s festival season, taking place on May 1. The festivities begin at 11 a.m. with a parade. Following the parade, the festivities include food by the Little Crane Cafe, a cake walk and a bike raffle drawing. Gean said she, for one, is happy to have any event, even if it is a bit smaller than hoped for this year.
Gean, of Centralia, whose aunt and uncle own the Little Crane Cafe, has been involved in the event since her youth and for several years as a member of the May Day Committee. For her family, she said the event means a chance to give back to the community, especially the kids. But she said since getting involved with the committee, she has learned just how dear the event is to the residents of Vader.
Once an event on the verge of disappearing due to lack of volunteers, the Vader May Day Committee is now a robust group with a board and committees who are constantly trying to add more to the event each year. With fundraising activities largely shuttered because of COVID-19, Gean said the May Day Committee members partially funded this year’s event selling chocolate bars and buttons. Committee members are hopeful that the 2022 festival season will see COVID-19 in the rearview mirror and their big plans for continuing to expand May Day to be able to move forward with new and bigger things. But for now, they are happy to be able to have an event.
“For us, it’s more about trying to bring a smile to someone’s face,” Gean said.
2021 Festival Season
May 1 – Vader May Day
May 15-June 15 — ARTrails of Southwest Washington spring online show and sale
Artrailsofsww.org or @ARTrailsofSWWashington on Facebook
May 28-31 — Packwood Spring Flea Market
June 19 — Rochester Swede Day
June 19 — Winlock Egg Days
June 26 — Ride the Willapa
Ridethewillapa.com or @ridethewillapa on Facebook
July 3-4 — Mossyrock Freedom Festival
July 2-4 — Francis Schwingfest
July 3 — Oakville Independence Day & Scoot the Route Car Show
Oakvillecityhall.com or Oakville WA Chamber of Commerce on Facebook
July 3-5 — Patriotic Revolutionary Encampment at Veterans Memorial Museum
July 4 — Centralia Summerfest
Cityofcentralia.com or @CityofCentraliaWA on Facebook
July 8-11 — Toledo Cheese Days
July 9-11 — Lavender Celebration Weekend at Cowlitz Falls Lavender Company, Randle
July 23-25 — Tenino Oregon Trail Days
Teninoacc.org/Oregon-trail-days-otd.html or @oregontraildaystenino on Facebook
Aug. 6-8 — Antique Fest Centralia
Aug. 12-15 — Morton Loggers Jubilee
Loggersjubilee.com or @mortonloggersjubilee on Facebook
Aug. 17-22 — Southwest Washington Fair
Southwestwashingtonfair.org or @southwestwashingtonfair on Facebook
Aug. 28-29 — Washington State Garlic Festival
Wagarlicfest.com or @WashingtonStateGarlicFest on Facebook
Sept. 3-6 — Packwood Fall Flea Market
Packwoodfleamarket.com or @packwoodfleamarket on Facebook
Sept. 5 — Rust or Shine Car Show & Music Festival at Veterans Memorial Museum
Sept. 18-19 and Sept. 25-26 — ARTtrails of Southwest Washington Studio Tour
Artrailsofsww.org or @ARTrailsofSWWashington on Facebook
Oct. 1-3 — Onalaska Apple Harvest Festival
All festivals and events are subject to change based on Washington state COVID-19 regulations.
Check individual events’ websites or social media for updates closer to each event for the most accurate information.