Packed park: Moses Lake Spring Festival draws record crowds
May 31—MOSES LAKE — There were spots of rain, but that did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm — or the crowds.
After a two-year hiatus, the Moses Lake Spring Festival returned Memorial Day Weekend to a huge turnout. The annual event featured a three-on-three basketball tournament, a carnival, two parades, several concerts with well-known names, and more.
The festivities started at 3 p.m. Thursday and ran through Sunday evening. The carnival was set up on Lions Field behind Frontier Middle School with food and vendor booths at McCosh Park. On Saturday the Moses Lake Farmers Market was also in its usual spot, which attracted even larger numbers.
Because the festival was free, it's difficult to know how many people actually attended, said board member Lori Valdez, but she estimated between 8,000 and 12,000 people were there on Saturday alone.
"The park has never been that packed before," she said.
Every hotel and motel in Moses Lake was filled, she added. One vendor lost the roof off his camper the first night and had to find a motel room in Othello because there was nothing available closer.
"Saturday we were so busy, we ran out of toilet paper," Valdez said. "I mean, we had like two big huge cases of toilet paper, and by the time we got to Saturday, it was all gone. So I was sending people to the store to go get toilet paper. Well, you know how that is; you can't even get out of the parking lot. That was a little crazy."
There were nearly two dozen food vendors, both local and from out of town, offering everything from shaved ice and barbecue sandwiches to gyros and buffalo burgers. At times the lines were so long it was difficult to tell which line was for which vendor.
"Our vendors were running out of food," Valdez said. "They were having to make food runs. They've never had that happen before."
The festival included a concert on Friday by country star Chris Janson, and two more on Sunday, by well-known country artists Colt Ford and Priscilla Block. Getting nationally-known artists in for a free concert was a significant draw, said board president Sean Sallis.
"I personally talked to a couple that came by my 3-on-3 (basketball tournament) and I said, 'Hey, are you from town?' They said, 'No, we're from Seattle. We heard you had Chris Jansen and Colt Ford and Priscilla Block for free. We didn't believe it at first, and then we kept digging around and we found out it was real.' And they were like, 'Well, forget Watershed, we'll go to that,'" Sallis said.
"Chris Jansen's show on Friday was over-the-top amazing," said Valdez. "He is quite a performer, straight-up performer. He just had the whole crowd going."
(For more information on the concerts, check out this Friday's Lifestyle section in the Columbia Basin Herald.)
Filling Dogwood Street in between the two was a car show sponsored by Les Schwab, Shade Tree Customs and the Moses Lake Classic Car Club. The show featured tricked-out newer vehicles as well as antiques like Jeff Isaak's 1917 Dodge.
"I found it in a field north of Marlin (while I was) deer hunting," Isaak said. "It was solid rust. I'm six foot five, so I had to cut out the front seat and move it back. I built every nut, every bolt."
Like every year, the festival featured two parades on Third Avenue on Saturday. The Kiddie Parade began at 6 p.m. and included contingents from local elementary schools as well as kids who just wanted to walk or be pulled in wagons.
The Grand Parade was just that — grand. There were marching bands from Chief Moses and Frontier Middle Schools as well as from Moses Lake High School, which also brought its cheer squad and the Molahiettes dance team.
The parade had 65 entries, according to Valdez. This year was the first time for Seth Miner of Miner Services, whose float featured an eclectic display of metal artwork.
"I love it," Miner said. "We're talking about next year doing it bigger and better."
AIM Gymnastics also had a float in the parade which included a gymnast doing turns on a high bar.
"We've done it the past few years," said Nate Cole, who with his wife Bailey Cole recently bought the business.
"20 years minus a couple for COVID," agreed former owner Kortni Nelson. "It's a lot, and then the kids' smiles at the end say 'oh, we're gonna do it again.'"
"I hope people realize that this is a draw to our community," said Sallis. "And now people got to see Moses Lake. I had 3-on-3 people who had never really been to Moses Lake, and they hung out the whole time. That couple that came from Seattle, they stayed for four nights."
Overall, planners said the event was successful and they were happy with the turnout.
"It was probably the busiest festival we've ever had," said Valdez. "And it doesn't happen unless our community comes out and supports it and they sure did.
Joel Martin can be reached via email at email@example.com.