Music festival was a glimpse of Everett’s future nightlife

Imagine a Downtown Everett full of young, happy adults walking the sidewalks with money to spend and a tough decision to make: which musician to catch next, with too many choices.

As hard as that might be to picture for most who have spent their lives in Snohomish County, we witnessed it at the first annual Fisherman’s Village Music Festival. Those who enjoy live music or just simply want to see Everett’s downtown succeed should take notice. This festival — along with the recent rise in music, arts and culture in Downtown Everett — is an important milestone in helping to create a vibrant city center where people want to live, work and play.

Featuring over 70 bands on four stages in Downtown Everett over the weekend of May 16 and 17, the Fisherman’s Village Music Festival was the first cut at inviting the next wave of popular, emerging artists into Snohomish County. The festival likely received more attention than any arts and culture event in Snohomish County’s history, with hundreds of articles and mentions from daily papers, industry press and radio stations across the Northwest. With a lineup that boasted some of the best bands in the region, as well as headlining bands from California and the United Kingdom, people came from as far as Canada and Colorado to visit the festival in Everett.

The dust has finally settled from the first annual Fisherman’s Village Music Festival and there are some clear takeaways from the event. A number of restaurants and bars reported having some of their best sales during the festival weekend. More than one hotel was at capacity due in part to visitors with festival wristbands. And most importantly, people from other cities, states and countries had a positive experience that countered the tarnished image of Everett that others had planted in their heads. This was a positive step in restoring the credibility of Everett as a place to visit.

The Fisherman’s Village Music Festival was the second most ambitious endeavor executed by the Everett Music Initiative, a non-profit located in Downtown Everett. The most ambitious was creating the Everett Music Initiative, a strategic effort to lure popular regional and touring artists to bring their talents to Downtown Everett, where few had gone before. The strategy includes leveraging the name and credibility of popular Northwest artists to market local bands and Downtown Everett venues as a viable place to play.

Let us tell you, this was not a simple task.

Since our conception in early 2012, we have produced and marketed over 60 musical events in Everett, attracted over 20,000 visitors downtown and have generated over $1.5 million in small business spending by Everett Music Initiative event attendees. Creating healthy recreation and an attractive nightlife in Downtown Everett will play a vital role in the ongoing effort to recruit and retain businesses and skilled talent and continuing revitalization and growth in Downtown Everett.

If you haven’t driven through Downtown Everett recently, there’s a big surprise waiting. Thanks to a handful of forward-thinking developers, several hundred million dollars in multi-family residential, hotels and retail will be completed by the end of 2015. It’s been decades since Downtown Everett has seen development of this scale. If this is any hint of the growth that Downtown Everett will see in the coming years, much work needs to be done to ensure that there are enough recreational amenities to attract and sustain a growing population downtown. An All-American City isn’t what they’re looking for.

In the majority of successful downtowns across America, there is a prevalence of adjacent residential neighborhoods within walking distance of downtown. With Rucker Hill to the south and historic neighborhoods to the north, thousands of people live within a quarter-mile of Downtown Everett, providing an essential base of diners and show-goers. Newer developments such as Library Place and Potala Village have provided affordable, upscale living in the heart of downtown. By the end of next year, two more residential developments will be completed, offering over 200 more residences not even a block from restaurants and amenities downtown.

Over 10,000 people work in Downtown Everett and over 100,000 work within the city limits, keeping lunch spots and sidewalks busy during the day. However, it will be cultural arts, restaurants and nightlife that will extend the life of downtown beyond 5 p.m., helping attract and keep people who decide where to work and live largely by what goes on after the sun goes down.

There is clear momentum and a growing vitality in Downtown Everett, and Everett Music Initiative is proud to be a part of it. As we encourage growth in the arts, culture and nightlife, we continue to grow ourselves. In addition to the successful music festival, we recently opened The Cannery, a new music venue and special events space in Downtown Everett where we’ll regularly produce events and continue to seek out opportunities to bring music and events here.

Most people who live or work in Downtown Everett want to see change, but few are willing to be the change they want to see. Rather than wait for the cause and effect, we urge you to cause the effect and support the exciting things that are going on downtown.

In order to create a place where people want to live, work and play, visitors need to see a community that’s living, working and playing.

Ryan Crowther and Steven Graham are the founders of the Everett Music Initiative and Fisherman’s Village Music Festival.

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