New Kirkland Events Foundation to boost events with creation of Oktoberfest

Kirkland Octoberfest will run from Sept. 27-29 at Marina Park. - Contributed art
Kirkland Octoberfest will run from Sept. 27-29 at Marina Park.
— image credit: Contributed art

A Bellevue native, Rob Butcher noticed the events taking place throughout the year when he frequented Kirkland to dine out.

“Events are wonderful things. It’s what attracted me to Kirkland,” said Butcher, who is now a long-time Kirkland resident.

As city events boomed from 26 last year – including the first annual SummerFest event that Butcher spearheaded - to 33 events this year, Butcher discovered something.

“Unfortunately, events don’t fund themselves,” he said.

That’s why he and a group of about 20 passionate Kirkland residents formed the Kirkland Events Foundation this year. The nonprofit organization produces and promotes Kirkland events for the betterment of the Kirkland community. The foundation’s mission is to present festivals of art, music and entertainment that enrich the cultural and economic vitality of Kirkland.

“It is Kirkland residents producing Kirkland events for the benefit of Kirkland,” said Butcher.

He said the foundation will initially produce two events that will serve as the nonprofit’s “engine” to boost economic support for other local events. This includes the Kirkland SummerFest – a two-day celebration of art, music and culture in August – and the Kirkland Oktoberfest event, which is new to the city this year.

When Butcher and other volunteers created SummerFest last year, they looked at other events in the region.

“We visited two dozen festivals last year, studying how the business models work in preparation to build our Kirkland Events Foundation and run things like a business,” he said.

The group discovered that there were business models that they could adapt to Kirkland, including the Oktoberfest event in Leavenworth that funds other city events throughout the year.

“It’s a great model in that one type of event will fund all those community events that can’t fund themselves,” said Butcher. “So we’re all about keeping things always running in the black and figuring out how we can be sustainable because events in town right now are not sustainable. The city council is dealing with these issues right now and we’re well aware of that.”

Organizers struggle to fund events

Recent budget reductions have severely curtailed the amount of annual city funding available for events, according to a report presented at the city’s Jan. 2 meeting.

Although cities like Redmond and Issaquah have significant event budgets that pay for city-produced events, Kirkland does not produce any of its own events.

Event organizers also continue to request city funding, even though the city eliminated a General Fund allocation for events, the report continues.

The Kirkland Events Foundation will partner with the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce and the Kirkland Downtown Association, which produce various events.

Last year, the downtown association received $2,700 in proceeds from SummerFest, which netted nearly $20,000. Funds will support the association’s many events, including the annual 4th of July parade and fireworks, Summer Concert Series, Kirkland Classic Car Show and holiday tree lighting.

Oktoberfest’s beneficiary will be the Chamber.

Bruce Wynn, executive director of the Kirkland Chamber, says the organization strongly supports the Kirkland Events Foundation.

“Kirkland Downtown Association events at best break even,” noted Wynn. “They are completely dependent on volunteers. The Kirkland Events Foundation pays its staff and focuses on fund raising, freeing up the Chamber and Kirkland Downtown Association to focus on fewer events. If they are successful, other (downtown association) events that are less successful with fund raising will have access to surplus funds generated by SummerFest and OktoberFest.”

Santos Contreras, who is on the foundation’s board, says the foundation’s goal is all about keeping money from events in Kirkland.

“Kirkland is a whole new city now – we’re much bigger and there’s a lot of stuff going on all year ‘round,” said Contreras, noting each year kicks off with the Polar Bear Plunge and ends with the downtown tree lighting event. “What we stand for is nonprofit, Kirkland events put on by Kirkland people for the benefit of Kirkland organizations. I would almost call that our mantra.”

The foundation also supports events throughout the year with co-marketing and other services. In addition, the foundation also funded a centralized database to help manage event volunteers. The database is available on the foundation’s website.

Oktoberfest oom-pah-pah and more

So why Oktoberfest?

“Oktoberfest is something that a lot of us have always enjoyed and why travel for two-and-a-half hours over to Leavenworth for your oom-pah-pah when you can have it right here on the waterfront,” said Butcher.

The Kirkland Events Foundation will hold the event from Sept. 27-29 at Marina Park. Oktoberfest will feature traditional German music, German beers, brats, wiener dog races and family-friendly activities, such as pumpkin decorating contests, rides and bouncy toys.

Butcher says the foundation is open to the community’s ideas for any of the events they produce.

Foundation board members also have their eyes set on big plans for the future. While they haven’t announced plans for other events yet, Butcher hints at some potential events.

“If one were to do a search of domain names, one might come up with about 20 domain names that start with ‘Kirkland’ and end in ‘fest’ and fill in everything but banana in the middle,” he laughs.

Future foundation events could include anything from a Kirkland Ciderfest, to a Jazzfest or Winterfest, he says.

“Everything you can imagine,” said Butcher. “We’re also looking into broadening the reach of events, so they’re not just all in downtown, but will reach out to Totem Lake or in Juanita… where, to date, not a lot of events have taken full advantage of them. So that’s a great opportunity in the future.”

More information

For more information about the Kirkland Events Foundation, visit To contact foundation members with ideas, email or call 425-456-1111. For information about Oktoberfest, visit


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