Bicycling, beer, scavenger hunts among ideas for next big Bellingham event

Will the City of Subdued Excitement’s next big event highlight local craft beer, create a hub of bicycle-themed fun, or take participants on an epic scavenger hunt through town?

For the month of March, judges from the city Tourism Commission’s Lodging Tax Advisory Board will look at 18 applications from groups that want to expand on their existing events or bring a whole new experience to the city.

Readers might recognize a few of the events being pitched: Bellingham Folk Festival wants to host its second event in January 2016; the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival: Mr Flip’s Carnival of Wonders and Curiosities hopes to expand to downtown Bellingham in summer 2016; and the Bellingham Bay Swim Team hopes to attract more swimmers to its Aly Fell Memorial Open Water Meet in August this year.

At least three groups pitched bicycling events, featuring mountain biking and/or cyclocross.

Foodies who also like to enjoy local beer and wine might be rooting for one of three pitches. September, already the time of the popular Bellingham Beer Week, could see two more booze-themed events. The Bellingham International Wine Fest would benefit the Center for Independence and take place in September, and the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce wants to host Oktoberfest, featuring local and regional craft brewers the last weekend of beer week, with a music festival and shuttles to area hotels.

The Bellingham Waterfront and Seafood Festival likely would take place in late September and could feature a slew of fishing and seafood-themed eats, contests and tours, and promote service projects related to local fisheries.

In the arts and entertainment genre: Theater junkies could see plenty of shows in February 2016 at Bellingham Fringe Festival. Promising filmmakers might showcase their work at the Female Eye Bellingham Women’s Film Festival. Residents might find themselves bouncing between three main venues downtown if a series of events under the umbrella name of “City of Subdued Excitement” are organized by an applicant from California.

The Great Bellingham Game, kicking off in October 2016, would be an app-based scavenger hunt that would take participants around town. Restaurants and businesses would be encouraged to offer discounts to participants.

Other ideas run the gamut from robotics and inventing to conference- or expo-based events centered on themes from making communities better to highlighting Whatcom County’s clean air.

The city offered up $75,000 in lodging tax from hotel and motel visitors for 2015, and up to $50,000 per year for 2016 and 2017 for groups that could show their event would drive tourists to town and highlight what Bellingham has going for it. Staff members were particularly interested in ideas for events during the off-season between September and March.

The advisory board could choose to fund one or more events, and might ask to meet with the top contenders.

The winner or winners should be selected by the end of the month.