Despite the change of venue and scheduling for the hottest month of the year, KeizerFEST 2022 was a big hit.
Official attendance numbers aren’t yet available, but estimates go as high as several thousand just for the parade, and the Southeast Keizer Neighborhood Association reported having more than 1,800 visitors to their booth during the two-day event at Keizer Rapids Park.
“It was a real big success,” said Corri Falardeau, Keizer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and member of the KeizerFEST organizing committee. “We couldn’t believe how many people showed up.”
“I measure it by how many cars we had parked,” said Dave Walery, Keizer Chamber of Commerce board member and longtime KeizerFEST organizer. “There were at least 200, probably more. We had to designate overflow parking.”
Despite record turnout, one traditional part of the Valley Credit Services KeizerFEST Parade was missing, namely any kind of marching band. Normally schools from all over the region send their bands to march down River Road each year, but with Summer vacation nearly over, many of them are still in band camp.
“If we continue to have it in August, the schools know now,” said Falardeau. “Some schools are on board with changing their band camps to incorporate KeizerFEST.”
In an interview prior to the event, Walery said when they were looking for a slot to hold the festival, August was the most convenient time based on the schedule he was given from City Council.
Walery and Falardeau were both part of the organizing committee, led for the first time this year by former Keizer Chamber of Commerce President Bob Shackleford. The job had been Walery’s for many years prior.
“I’m 71 and I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so I’m more than happy to let Bob take the wheel,” said Walery in an interview with KeizerTimes in July.
Shackleford, who was unavailable for comment, had been wanting to move the event to Keizer Rapids Park for many years, having been frustrated in the past as a committee member with the constant venue shifting and space limitations that went along with holding the event in one of open downtown areas.
“It just always made sense to me to hold it at the park,” Shackleford told KeizerTimes in July. “We’re close to the river, there are public bathrooms, plenty of parking, and lots of space for vendors.”
“People really enjoyed having more space this time,” said Falardeau. “We had 22 more vendors than we’ve ever had.”
Walery agreed, saying that most of the food vendors ran out of supplies at one time or another, and the tent space became crowded at times. Having a 2.5 acre space for the event this year allowed the chamber to offer vendors more options.
That space came with at least one cost. Walery said that if there was one thing that didn’t go exactly as planned, it was turning an uneven, weed-infested field into a proper festival grounds. However, weather and logistics challenges prevented organizers from getting the grass planted in time, which meant all the foot-traffic kicked up a lot of dust.
Walery said they were expecting that problem based on how late the grass was planted, but the city had allowed the committee to fill up a water truck so they could spray the ground periodically throughout the day. He said next year, if it’s held in the same location, they will get the grass planted earlier in the season.
One potential problem with holding the event in the same location next year is that by that time, the city could be building two new turf fields on that exact spot. But while the City Council is still exploring options for the turf fields, Walery said that many city officials attended the event and expressed their pleasure at how well KeizerFEST went this year.
“I know there is a [turf field] master plan and all that, but it’s not set in stone,” said Walery. “They may adjust it a little bit to accommodate a festival like ours. And you know, this isn’t the chamber’s festival, this is the people’s festival.”
Walery said it’s too early to make any predictions, but he said another option might be holding it further into the park, in the empty field near the Willamette River.
“I don’t think we even know yet where we’re going to hold it next year,” said Falardeau. “If we can get a permanent space at the park from the city and kind of adapt it and make it our own, I think the world is our oyster, so to speak, regardless of what time of year we hold it.”
Falardeau added that the title sponsor for the event this year was SMI Property Management, and that their executives have agreed to sponsoring KeizerFEST for the next 10 years.