City’s small parks team goes big on summer events

Published by
Adya Mohapatra

Over the course of 2022, the Sammamish Parks, Recreation, and Facilities department has been driving the return to pre-pandemic life in the community. Following their spring events, they now plan to revitalize the city’s famed summer events.

From working with community partners, to finding vendors and recruiting volunteers, the department has a five-member team responsible for executing a hefty schedule of summer activities.

Already in May, the city hosted a well-attended Rig-a-Palooza event that featured all sorts of vehicles, including police motorcycles and garbage trucks, for kids to climb on. There was also the Dragon Boat Festival in June that featured performances and activities showcasing Chinese culture. More events, such as the annual Fourth on the Plateau celebration for Fourth of July, and the Concerts in the Park series at Pine Lake Park, are being planned.

“It is important to have a feeling of community, otherwise it can get isolating… We encourage people to get out there,” said Annelise Diers, the city’s rental and systems coordinator. “We’ve put a lot of work into these events for the community, all ages, to enjoy.”

The two years of COVID-19 restrictions have been a challenge for the parks department, which had to cancel many traditional events and pivot to organizing online events and outdoor activities, such as the Fairy House Trail at Pine Lake Park, to fill the void.

“It was difficult [during the pandemic], I think, for parks in general. For myself, it was difficult because you know we shut everything down, and then it’s ‘what do we do next’,” said recreation and cultural service manager Chris Jordan.

Despite less strict health guidelines, resuming public activities to their full extent has required careful planning.

“We’re spacing everyone out and recommend wearing masks… All staff are still wearing masks, and all events are outdoors,” said Diers.

The community seems to appreciate having the events back. Diers noted that several events such as Rig-a-Palooza, the YMCA’s Eggstravaganza, and Earth Day had record-numbers of attendees.

Jordan is focused on coordinating new partnerships with vendors and community groups, emphasizing that partnerships are key to running these events. It typically involves a bit of reaching out from both sides, or simply word-of-mouth advertising, but he had to find a different approach this year.

“Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of [vendors] went out of business unfortunately and moved. So now we have to find new vendors, so it’s more searching and seeing availability,” he said.

Community partnerships allow Jordan’s small team to execute on such a large scale. For instance, the city is partnering with the Vedic Culture Center on its Namaste India event later in the fall.

Jordan and Diers acknowledged the challenge of putting on large-scale events amidst staffing shortages. Despite getting only a few applicants, they still managed to recruit two interns.

“We’ve been focusing on planning for the Fourth on the Plateau, communicating with vendors, meeting with the rest of the team, creating graphics, promotional material and newsletters,” said Madeleine Afonso, a college student who is interning at the parks department this summer.

Although the pace of work has been frenetic, Jordan believes many members of his staff are just glad that they can give the community these cherished summer events back.

 “Once we get through the Fourth [of July], it’s all downhill because that’s one of our big events, but…I think the team is excited and back with the community,” Jordan said.

More information about upcoming city events can be found here.  

Adya Mohapatra

Adya Mohapatra is a former sports & recreation reporter and copy editor for the Sammamish Independent. She is a 2021 graduate of Issaquah High School, where she was the Editor-in-Chief for her school newspaper, the Issaquah High Times.

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