Kent Cornucopia Days are here

It's a longstanding tradition, a festival like no other in the area that brings out the best in Kent while supporting many nonprofit organizations.

Lisa Hicka

It’s a longstanding tradition, a festival like no other in the area that brings out the best in Kent while supporting many nonprofit organizations.

Bill Westcott knows as much.

A tireless volunteer worker for Kent Cornucopia Days for more than 20 years, Westcott joins his fellow Kent Lions, the festival’s producers, to keep a good thing going.

“It’s one of the largest events in the state of Washington now. We get upward of 300,000 people at it,” said Westcott, volunteer festival coordinator. “It brings a lot of people into Kent who don’t normally come here, especially into downtown historical Kent.

“I do it because it’s a fundraiser for the Kent Lions (and the Lions Foundation),” Westcott said, “but it also benefits upward of 250 nonprofit organizations who depend upon raising money at the event.”

The 42nd annual festival, the oldest and largest of its kind in South King County, opens Thursday and continues through Sunday.

Originally known as the Kent Lettuce Festival in the 1930s, Kent Cornucopia Days has grown in size and scope.

The event features a full-size carnival, a street fair of more than 600 booths offering a variety of items from food to crafts, live entertainment, exhibitions, games, shows and, of course, the traditional grand parade on Sunday afternoon. Hours vary with festivities beginning at 10 a.m. each day.

The festival has diversified over the years, and now offers a 5-K run/walk, dragon boat races on Lake Meridian, a soccer tournament sprinkled over seven area pitches, and a skateboard tournament.

It might be symptomatic of an improving economy, but participation and sales have picked up, Westcott said.

Carnival operators have reported improved sales for rides, above last year’s clip.

“People are willing to spend money now,” Westcott added.

Organizers also have run out of room for vendors. Some organizations were put on standby, waiting for the likelihood of a last-minute opening.

“We’ve got more vendors than we have spaces for,” Westcott said. “We have all the spots taken.”

Anywhere between 150 and 200 volunteers will work this weekend, ensuring the festival’s safety and success.

“It’s just a ton of work,” Westcott said. “It’s not getting easier as time goes by … there are more rules, more regulations, more insurance costs.”

But it’s all worth it, considering it benefits the Kent Lions and other nonprofits.

“We work well with the city of Kent. They do a great job for us,” Westcott added.

Notes

The Kent Cornucopia Days 5K Fun Run and Walk turns 10 this year. The run begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Three Friends Fishing Hole Park, 20025 Russell Road. Parking is available at Iron Mountain Storage. The 3.1-mile course is U.S. Track and Field certified and flat. For those who haven’t signed up yet, race day registration and packet pickup are available near the start/finish line at 7:30 a.m. For more information, visit KentArts.com or call 253-856-5050. …

New this year is a children’s activity area in the parking lot of the downtown Wells Fargo Bank, 204 W Meeker St. … Admission is free. An information booth is at First and Meeker streets. … For more information, visit www.kcdays.com.

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