The relaxing sound of indie music and the smell of freshly popped kettle corn filled the air as hundreds gathered in downtown Fairhaven for the start of the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema movie night. People flocked to the grass with blankets, lawn chairs and hammocks to await nightfall to kick off the summer season with a viewing of “10 Things I Hate About You.”
Saturday, June 25, marked the beginning of the 17th year of the summer-long series of showings. The films are projected from the Fairhaven Village Green onto the backside of Jalapeños Mexican Grill. The building’s red brick wall has been specially painted and designed for these movie events.
The outdoor cinema was started in 1999 by the Whatcom Film Association. Now, Epic Events & Promotion is the company behind the projector. Doug Borneman, president of Epic Events & Promotion, has been in charge of this event for 12 years.
Borneman’s entrance into the outdoor cinema world came when he was running special events in Seattle. He was approached by a client who asked if he would be interested in running an outdoor movie series for them.
While working in the movie business was not a lifelong goal, Borneman said he has always loved putting on a show for people.
“I grew up playing sports so I always liked the event aspect and performing or doing things with crowds,” Borneman said.
In 2004, Borneman moved to Bellingham and was looking for a place to run his outdoor movies. The park was already hosting movie nights and Borneman jumped at the opportunity to add his name to the venue’s schedule.
“As a movie producer, I was just kind of looking around at what was going on and I began working on the Fairhaven thing,” Borneman said. “There were some dates open and I started running them here. I’ve been doing it ever since,” Borneman said.
Borneman also said that his company gave the old movie screen a much needed update.
“It was originally just painted white brick, and then we did some plaster work on it to make it a nice smooth surface,”Borneman said.
“As a movie producer, I was just kind of looking around at what was going on and I began working on the Fairhaven thing. There were some dates open and I started running them here. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Borneman said his company is bringing outdoor movies to people all across Washington, including events in Seattle, Redmond and Spokane, just to name a few. Borneman attends the opening night at each location.
Epic Events & Promotion also has small outdoor movie screens for rent for parties or private events. They provide screens, projection and audio for these rental events. Epic Events & Promotion is also the company that produces the outdoor movies on Western’s Communications Lawn twice a year.
Borneman said their selection process for films is a type of polling system done through Facebook. First, they gather a wide variety of possible selections. Then they give the list of potential films to Facebook friends and those interested in the event for feedback on the choices. At the end of the process, they have a finalized list.
“We kind of just put it into a movie machine, and it spits out the perfect list for every year,” Borneman said.
Each week the event will feature a new musical act. Saturday’s performer was Brian Ernst, a musician originally from Ohio, who is touring around the country for the summer. Ernst uses a looping pedal on stage to record small snippets of his music. Then he layers those recordings together to make a complete song.
As the sun went down, the lawn filled up. By the time Ernst took the stage, the park was packed from edge to edge with 500 people. Families, large groups of college friends and people on dates all came together to enjoy the kickoff of the summer event. Borneman said these movies consistently bring in between 400 and 500 attendees each time.
Local vendors lined the side of the grass to give attendees the chance for a pre-movie snack. This week’s vendors included Papous Gyros, Lindsay’s Crazy for Kettle Corn and West Coast Pops.
Each week will also feature a raffle prize, said Western sophomore Cassidy Miley, who recently began working for the event. People can sign up for the raffle online or at the Village Green when they arrive for the movie. Saturday’s prize was a movie entertainment package containing two Regal Cinema vouchers.
The night was filled with delicious local food, soothing music, a raffle prize drawing and the much-anticipated movie. One attendee, Josie Slattery, 21, came up from Camano Island to enjoy the experience of an outdoor movie. Being her first time at this event, Slattery said she was glad “10 Things I Hate About You” was the feature presentation.
Zackery Mcelveny, 22, is a long-time fan of the outdoor movie event. Mcelveny went to every single showing last summer, and says he plans to attend all of this year’s events as well. When asked what movie he would want to see played at this event, he said, “I’d go with Finding Nemo.”
This summer’s lineup includes blockbuster hits such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Martian” and “Zootopia.”
The Village Green will be host these weekly movies until the August 27, finishing the season with “The Princess Bride”.