Arts, Science, and Living History Draw Big Crowds at Community Events

Filed Under: Vibrant Community - Posted @ 11:33am

Great things happen when community gathers together. Every month, GTCF talks with organizers of events posted on our Community Calendar to find out what happened and what they learned. In this edition, Rosemary Ponnekanti from Tacoma OceanFest and Chris Staudinger from Puyallup Meeker Days  share their experiences putting on large-scale community festivals in June.

Tacoma OceanFest

  • PHOTO: Annie Crawley Ocean Photography via Xintong Lin

Foss Waterway Seaport

Event Date
June 10, 2018

Ocean Fest was a one-day free festival that aimed to bring arts, sciences, and water fun together to celebrate the ocean, inform about threats (like plastic, trash, pollution, overfishing, and climate change), and inspire people to protect it.

What were you hoping to accomplish?
Rosemary Ponnekanti: “I wanted people to change the way they thought about the ocean.  For many of us it’s just a beautiful holiday destination, or something we see every day (or never see).  But as humans we are completely dependent on a healthy ocean for food, water, and the air we breathe.  I wanted to educate people about environmental problems and how they could help – but also inspire their imagination and empathy to care for the ocean.  And I wanted to bring many different segments of the community together to tell their ocean stories.”

How did it go? 
Rosemary Ponnekanti: “It was, as councilmember Ryan Mello pronounced, a “smashing success!” We counted 1,325 people before we ran out of stickers and tally paper, and all of those widely diverse people seemed totally engaged in the dance, the music, film, virtual reality, art, and science activities.  Despite the rain, people were smiling and having fun.”

Rosemary Ponnekanti: “It all just flowed so beautifully from music to dance to film to art, and out to the booths on the esplanade and down to the kayaks on the water and back. One of my favorite moments was when the mbira music – an African instrument that sounds like rain – gradually flowed away to reveal the Tacoma City Ballet dancers floating their enormous lilac-and-green silk, which became their ballet “Whalesong.” People were transfixed. It was perfect.

“And that moment where the internet failed just as we were screening the last of the middle school film finalists. I asked the crowd – “Would you like to wait until we fix it, and watch it again?” And everyone unanimously called out, “Yes!” Such amazing support of our town’s young people, and their voices.  This is what ocean conservation should be about – all of us gathering to hear our stories and marvel at this amazing world that’s right on our doorstep.”

What did you learn that would help other individuals or organizations trying to do community events?
Rosemary Ponnekanti: “I had A LOT of community partnerships – everything from the library hosting poetry workshops to Tacoma Sunrise Rotary sponsoring prizes and Pierce Conservation District offering a staff member to manage booths. I invited a diverse range of groups, and they all shared it out to their followers – this helps enormously. Never be afraid to ask someone to help – and how they would like to help.”

What’s next?  Will you be doing more events like this in the future?
Rosemary Ponnekanti: “Yes,  I really hope OceanFest will happen next year! Meanwhile I am getting some sleep and hanging out with my family again – and hopefully going to the ocean very soon.”


Meeker Days

  • PHOTO: Meeker Days 2018 via Chris Staudinger

Downtown Puyallup

Event Date
June 23-24, 2018

Meeker Days has been a community celebration for the last 79 years. It’s a massive street fair that offers live music, local art, beer and wine, and a huge selection of local vendors. It was originally established as a way to celebrate the contributions of the city’s founder Ezra Meeker, and today it continues that legacy by drawing visitors and longtime residents out to the Meeker Mansion and through the active heart of downtown Puyallup.

What were you hoping to accomplish?
Chris Staudinger: “Our goal with Meeker Days has always been to rally the community, share the story of Ezra Meeker, and to give people the opportunity to interact with their neighbors. Meeker Days is put on by the Puyallup Main Street Association and we endeavor to give people access to local vendors and businesses while creating a fun environment. We tried to include more food vendors, more local artists, and more hands on activities for kids that would help maintain the historical stories of the area.”

How did it go? 
Chris Staudinger: “There was a lot of feedback that people felt like this was one of the largest and most diverse Meeker Days they could remember. We were thrilled to host the Puyallup Farmers Market as a major part of Meeker Days and to bring in some new and exciting food vendors. We had a section of “living history” with tents set up in Pioneer Park and reenactors living on the grounds for the weekend that a lot of kids seemed very interested in. We also heard a lot of great comments about the bands we had lined up this year.”

Chris Staudinger: “For us, it was amazing to see such a large turnout of people. This event is really all about getting the community together each year and celebrating Puyallup. One of our personal highlights, though, was the time capsule tent. We provided small time capsules for anyone who was interested and encouraged them to add something from their year as they dreamed about the future.”

What did you learn that would help other individuals or organizations trying to do community events?
Chris Staudinger: “Relying on community partners cannot be stressed enough. We had such support from our city and the organizations that call this place home. Reaching out to them early on and seeing what we could do for them in return was invaluable.”

What’s next?  Will you be doing more events like this in the future? 
Chris Staudinger: “We have big plans for next year’s Meeker Days. It will be our 80th annual Meeker Days and we are really going all out for it. From the size of the bands to the caliber of the vendors, we are aiming for the stars. We can hardly wait to start rolling out the exciting news surrounding next year.”


Want to share your events on our calendar? We invite local nonprofits, organizations, and individuals to help us keep the Community Calendar up to date by posting their own events to the calendar.

To begin posting you’ll need to create an account

Once you’ve created an account, you will be able log in and post your events to the Community Calendar at any time.  Submissions will be reviewed by GTCF staff and shared on the calendar once they are approved.  We usually get them up within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, or need help getting your account set up please feel free to call us at (253) 383-5622 or email Joe Hunich