Make.Shift Block Party

Putting the “fun” in fundraising

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Although virtue is its own reward, nothing worth having ever comes without hard work, etc., the truth of the matter is, running a nonprofit can be tough going.

No matter how strong the mission, how intact the passion or true the focus, surmounting the formidable obstacles of continued existence requires a special sort of perseverance. And no matter how staunch the community support, the reality of day-to-day existence for those who operate nonprofits is that the to-do list never seems to grow shorter—indeed it is often longer at day’s end than it was in the morning—and the challenges tend to be of the variety that can never be adequately encompassed in any job description. As well, the payoffs, when they arrive, tend to be of the intangible kind, and often lead to bigger projects, bolder ideas and little time to sit back and savor success. The pay—for those positions that actually come with a salary—doesn’t tend to be great either.

I have a theory that it is because of this day-in, day-out grind that, when nonprofits throw galas or giant parties or other types of celebrations, they have a tendency to go all out, creating occasions that are both memorable and fun. In other words, when they let off steam, we all benefit.

With its yearly Block Party, Make.Shift isn’t exactly doing a whole lot to disprove my theory.

During the other 364 days that make up the year, Make.Shift is a nonprofit that does the often complicated work of managing a multipurpose, multidisciplinary downtown space, providing rehearsal spaces for bands, studio spaces for artists, places for small local businesses to set up shop, a gallery to showcase the work of local artists, an all-important all-ages music venue and so much more. The dedicated, passionate and hardworking crew manages to juggle all these elements with a deftness that borders on magic, while refining and expanding the nonprofit’s reach and traction within the music community in particular and the greater arts community at large.

In other words, they’re pretty great, and once a year they throw a huge party that, much like the nonprofit itself, serves a number of similar purposes. First, it gives Make.Shift the opportunity to show its gratitude for the many, many people who support the organization. Second, it allows those who love Make.Shift to continue to back the nonprofit while also seeing the real-world effects of that support in action. Third, it serves as a fundraiser for Make.Shift, which is currently raising money to mitigate the costs of soundproofing vital to the organization’s ability to provide bands with necessary and tough-to-find rehearsal spaces.

Last, but certainly not least, the Make.Shift Block Party is all about fun—the weirder and wetter, the better.

I’ll get to the strange stuff in a minute, but because so much of Make.Shift’s mandate has to do with music, any event they host comes complete with a soundtrack provided by an all-day lineup of bands. The nonprofit made most of the lineup known when they first publicized their party, except for a “super-secret” performer. Said performer has been revealed to be Manatee Commune, fresh off an appearance at that other street bash, Seattle’s Capitol Hill Block Party. Manatee Commune will close the show, but a whole day’s worth of music will take place before that happens, courtesy of Grid Hopper, the Comettes, Eagle Teeth, Baltic Cousins, Just Kidding, and Specters.

Although certainly one of Block Party’s big draws, music should only be part of your motive for sussing out this shindig.

In what has become a Block Party tradition, the dunk tank makes its triumphant return, and this year Cascadia Weekly’s own Scott Pelton will take a turn being repeatedly plunged into the tepid waters of the tiny tank (feel free to dunk him a lot. It’s for charity). As well, the party will feature inflated gladiator jousting (I’m pretty sure it’s exactly what it sounds like), a newly designed Slip ’n’ Slide of Doom (necessary, after the last slide’s route was renovated out of existence), a climbing wall courtesy of Vital Climbing Gym, the now-familiar Unknown Board Shop Skate Jam, some sort of mysterious kinetic sculpture that’s only been barely hinted about, as well as a beer garden featuring pints from local breweries both established and brand new (and Pabst, because this is a music scene party, after all), food vendors, a bounce house and other activities for the kids, and so much more.

Whether you make a whole day of it—which I speak from experience when I attest is easy to do—or show up simply to quaff a local brew, watch a band or two, maybe take a turn on the Slip ’n’ Slide and dunk someone deserving (cough, Pelton, cough), the Make.Shift Block Party mirrors the mandate of the nonprofit that spawned it—namely that it exists to meet your needs, no matter how varied those might be.

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