Downtown Sounds 2019
1300 Block of Bay Street
Anniversaries are important.
Not only do they allow us to mark an occasion, but they also give us the opportunity to look back and see how far we’ve come.
In the case of Downtown Sounds, which will kick off its 15th season on Wed., July 10, the geographic distance the concert series has traveled is slight, but nearly everything else has changed quite a bit.
From its start, the mission of Downtown Sounds has always mirrored the broader mission of its parent organization, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, namely to make it both fun and rewarding to engage with and support the city’s downtown core. With Downtown Sounds came the idea to take an unloved space—in this case, an alley—and transform it into a music venue and invite one and all for free, family-friendly concerts.
To say the experiment has been a rousing success is an understatement.
Fifteen years ago, Downtown Sounds occupied one alley and lured a respectable number of people to its Wednesday concerts. These days, the series takes over two entire city blocks—Bay and Prospect streets—and last year’s run of shows drew an estimated 3,500-4,000 folks each week. Even though the bands have gotten bigger, the food options have expanded, the beer/wine/cider garden has gained square feet and a dedicated kids activity area has grown, much of that which makes Downtown Sounds so enormously popular remains the same.
One constant has been the stewardship of DBP Events Director Lindsey Payne Johnstone, who got her start as an events intern more than a decade ago and found her niche in helping Downtown Sounds be all it can be—with a huge assist from the entire staff of DBP as well as the army of volunteers it takes to pull off each concert.
“I don’t think we ever imagined it getting this big,” Lindsey says, “but we’re so glad it did! Looking back, I’m really proud that Downtown Bellingham Partnership is finally recognized as the organization that puts on Downtown Sounds. We all work so hard to make the series successful, and it’s amazing to know that people donate to our organization because of how much they love and enjoy Sounds.”
Another factor in the evolution of Downtown Sounds—and one that is key to both its growth and ensuring it remains free for the public to attend—has been the community partnerships that have sustained it. This year, WECU—the credit union where commitment to community is baked into everything they do—signed on to be the series’ title sponsor, saying, “Whatcom County is our home and we believe in making it a better place. Throughout the year, we support the community in our philanthropic giving, volunteer efforts and through our participation in community events. We’re extremely excited to be able to join with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership in producing the best Downtown Sounds yet! This is a great community event that brings people together and celebrates the amazing place we are lucky to call home. Come dance with us!”
The 2019 Downtown Sounds series features Polecat & Friends (July 10), Rebirth Brass Band and Rain City (July 17), Orchestra Zarabanda and Bilongo Quintet (July 24), Sepiatonic and Analog Brass (July 31), and Monophonics and Willdabeast (Aug. 7). More info can be found on pg. XX and at http://www.downtownbellingham.com