Spokane and its surrounding communities have a long history of supporting arts and culture. In 2015, the Washington State Chinese Lantern Festival drew over 80,000 visitors. It was the largest cultural festival since Expo ’74, the World’s Fair.
The festival organizers, buoyed by the overwhelming attendance of the 2015 show and interested in making it an annual experience held in the Inland Northwest, formed a nonprofit and network of partners including the City of Spokane Valley, Accurate Insurance, Avista and Avista Foundation. Since 2018, ‘Winterfest’ has become an annual festival tradition for many local families. Our displays can be found leading up to the event in local libraries and within Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.
Like many organizations who operate in-person, Northwest Winterfest had to navigate the 2020 COVID shutdowns. The festival went virtual – and working with Spokane Arts and 30+ cultural groups – produced videos featuring a variety of cultures and painted trees which showcased the cultures and artistic talents from regional artisans.
In 2021 and 2022, Northwest Winterfest resumed in-person shows in Spokane and Kennewick and has continued to evolve. We observed that many kids who attended the festival were affected by the stinging cold often present during the winter months. To remedy this, we moved the festival inside starting in 2022. Feedback from families has been positive as they have been able to stay longer to enjoy the festival without sacrificing the winter experience.
The festival is a nonprofit, focusing on serving as a bridge for cultural understanding and appreciation, as well as an educational opportunity for the children in our region. We strive to make this event accessible and enjoyable to everyone. All kids 10 and under enjoy FREE access to the festival. We also provide tickets to families who cannot afford so they can bring their kids to experience this event. The smiles on kids’ faces tell you the whole story of how much they enjoy the amazing displays, performances, and cultures.
Unlike other traveling shows, Northwest Winterfest is operated by people who live in our community, who want to bring more cultures to the region, especially for the educational enhancement for the children, and supported by grants and sponsorships from local government, corporations, groups and individuals.