Circus performer Jules McEvoy, of Bellingham, dazzles the crowd gathered for the Kla Ha Ya Days festival in downtown Snohomish on Saturday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Kla Ha Ya Days Festival draws thousands to Snohomish

SNOHOMISH — Penny Istvan, 4, hadn’t eaten many cherries before.

The other kids took turns spitting red-stained pits to see whose went farther.

The little girl looked at the cherry in her hand. She wasn’t convinced a seed was inside.

Eileen Istvan, 38, knelt down in the middle of First Street to teach her daughter about a pastime from Snohomish’s Kla Ha Ya Days Festival.

A skeptical Penny chewed slowly.

People have celebrated the Kla Ha Ya Days Festival in historic downtown Snohomish every summer since 1913. The festival is hosted by a nonprofit that donates the proceeds to organizations offering services to children and families.

Last year, $7,000 in donations and scholarships were given to Snohomish-based groups and high school students.

A street fair was spread out through downtown. Bands played anything from blues to U2 songs. Big crowds gathered at Harvey Field for a carnival and circus.

Bob Dvorak, Kla Ha Ya Days Festival president, said more than 10,000 people attended.

This year might have beat last year’s record, he said.

Along First Street, kids dug through a pile of sawdust looking for prizes. A boy in cowboy boots found a plastic pig nose. He peered up at his dad with a confused look.

Down the road, a girl and her father counted down to three. She catapulted a plastic frog toward a bucket.

A gaggle of kids lined up a half hour early for the ice cream-eating contest. More tables were brought in to accommodate the extra mouths.

One parent gave her contestants a pep talk while they waited.

“Are you ready?” she said.

Katelin Stone, 5, and her cousin Micah Riste, 6, were quick to sign up. It was their first time at the festival.

Earlier in the day, they stopped by the face painting booth.

Katelin had a gold tiara with a red star painted on her forehead. When she plays superheros with her cousins, she pretends to be Wonder Woman.

Micah’s favorite part of the day was the carnival sweets. Remnants of vanilla ice cream stuck to corners of his smile.

Kla Ha Ya Days isn’t just for the little ones.

Dave Butler, 77, of Clearview, signed up for the pole vaulting competition. He taught himself to pole vault in his yard when he was 12.

He made his own standard and fashioned a pit out of sawdust. Butler competed throughout high school and picked up the sport again at 52.

“You use it or lose it,” he said.

On Saturday, Butler cleared the 8-foot-high bar.

His friend Fred Zapf, 76, joined him.

“It’s a lot of fun to fly through the air,” said Zapf, who drove in from Sammamish for the festival.

In past years, some may have seen Butler’s 1953 robin’s egg-blue Oldsmobile in the festival car show. He has been coming to Kla Ha Ya Days for years.

“This is my hometown,” Butler said.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192;

Talk to us

More in Local News

CORRECTS NAME OF CANDIDATE AT LEFT TO MAIA ESPINOZA INSTEAD OF OF MONICA MARCHETTI - Maia Espinoza, a candidate for Washington state superintendent of public instruction, is shown at left in an undated photo taken by Monica Marchetti and provided by her campaign. Espinoza is challenging incumbent state superintendent Chris Reykdal, right, shown in an AP photo taken Oct. 2, 2020, in Olympia, Wash., in the upcoming November election. (AP Photo)
COVID and sex education frame the state superintendent race

Maia Espinoza, 31, is challenging incumbent Chris Reykdal, 48. They are both parents — with divergent views.

People in dinosaur costumes greet each other during Downtown Trick-or-Treating on Oct. 31, 2019 in Everett, Wash. Health officials have discouraged trick-or-treating this year. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Halloween cloaked in caution, trick-or-treating discouraged

As Snohomish Health District offers tips for safer fun, some still plan to hand out candy to kids.

Firefighters rescued Bennett the cat from a chimney Sunday night. The cat was missing a week before someone heard him calling for help. Firefighters worked him out of the flue by hand. (Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters rescue wayward cat from chimney

Bennett had been missing a week before a neighbor heard his meows coming from the fireplace.

The Arlington City Council will discuss asking voters to consider annexing its fire department to North County Fire & EMS. (North County Fire)
Arlington and North County Fire to consider annexation

If the Arlington City Council decides to move forward, voters would make the final decision.

Man shot while pumping gas in Everett

A man in his mid-40s refused another’s demand for his wallet. The victim was hospitalized.

Everett man arrested in Las Vegas for 2019 shooting

After the killing on Aurora Ave. in Seattle, the suspect relocated to several different states.

Rescuers find lost Marysville hunter near Leavenworth

They reached him over the radio, so they asked him to fire a round of his rifle to help locate him.

Brett Gailey
Lake Stevens’ first full-time mayor will make $80,000 a year

The city council voted in September to convert the mayoral position from part time to full time.

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw (left) and Robert Grant.
Lone local judge race: Defense attorney vs. deputy prosecutor

Cassandra Lopez-Shaw would be the county’s first Latina judge. Robert Grant is endorsed by retiring judge Eric Lucas.

Most Read