As COVID restrictions eased across the state Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Downtown Seattle Association announced a slate of events to take place July 12-26 as part of Welcome Back Weeks. They’re part of the city’s downtown recovery effort, which aims to bring workers, visitors and small businesses back to downtown Seattle after the pandemic left many downtown buildings empty.
“As a city, it’s time to turn our collective attention to recovery, and ensure we build our neighborhoods back better, more just and more equitable,” Durkan said in a news release. “As part of this effort, the City and our partners are ready to welcome you back downtown, and to welcome back our artists.”
Welcome Back Weeks will include concerts featuring local artists, sidewalk sales, food trucks, in-park happy hours, urban hikes and a “Halloween in July” celebration. Three large-scale events will take place in Chinatown-International District, Pioneer Square and Westlake Park, while promotions and smaller-scale events will be across downtown neighborhoods.
“This city, regardless of neighborhoods, was impacted severely by the pandemic, but downtown Seattle felt the pandemic acutely,” said Kelsey Nyland, a spokesperson for Durkan. “We had more than 450 street-level businesses close … and close permanently. At the height of the pandemic, foot traffic in downtown was just 25% of what it was pre-pandemic. A significant percentage of the city’s revenue comes from downtown, so that’s a real driver of why we’re focusing on downtown neighborhoods in Seattle.”
The focus on Chinatown-ID, Pioneer Square and Westlake for large-scale events is because they are “three truly historic and iconic Seattle neighborhoods that have each been significantly impacted, whether that’s small businesses who haven’t had patrons in their stores for almost two years, retail storefronts who have had to shut down or folks who haven’t been frequenting the great bars or art galleries,” Nyland said.
The first week of the promotion will feature tented booths in various locations downtown, hosting music, giveaways and staff who can answer questions about what has opened and what has changed.
The first large-scale Welcome Back Week event will take place July 17-18, from 1-7 p.m., at Hing Hay Park in Chinatown-ID. This two-day event will be a celebration of local food and culture and will feature community martial arts demonstrations, cultural performances and lion dances, according to the news release. Local musicians Hollis, Chong the Nomad, Evan Flory Barnes, Totem Star and more will also perform.
The second large-scale Welcome Back Week event will take place at Occidental Square July 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will include an outdoor concert with local artists Shaina Shepherd, Shenandoah Davis and The Black Tones. Path with Art will showcase their project “Found Fashion,” and Party Hat Gallery will provide free screen printing.
The final large-scale event will take place noon-8 p.m. at Westlake Park July 25. The family-friendly event will include a “Halloween in July” showcase where visitors are encouraged to dress up in a costume and trick-or-treat at vendors and stores across Westlake Park and Pacific Place. There will also be a costume contest, face painting, a sidewalk sale, a “Thriller” dance workshop and performances by El Vez, Teatro ZinZanni, SANCA’s Circus Circus and Lelavision. At 7 p.m., there will be a “Secret Sunset” concert.
All three large-scale Welcome Back Week events will feature a vaccine pop-up offering Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines.
“We know it’s definitely going to take some time for folks to regain their muscle memory of going out and enjoying events with each other, but we’re just going to continue to hammer home the message that Seattle really led the nation at combating the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nyland said, citing Seattle’s low case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths. Durkan announced Tuesday that the city had reached 80% of its population that has had one dose of the vaccine, Nyland said, “and we hope folks take that into account when they’re thinking about whether to come downtown and participate in these Welcome Back Week events.”
In addition to the Welcome Back Weeks, the city is implementing a slate of strategies to bring people back downtown, Nyland said, including legislation to allow downtown stores to “take on new creative uses of their storefronts, like hosting a pop-up museum or an art installation or even a mini park. We’ll also be continuing to provide direct cash assistance to artists and small businesses downtown with a focus on BIPOC communities and those who have been historically underserved.”
More information about Welcome Back Weeks and the downtown recovery effort is available at: seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19/recovery.