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Brandywine Kitchen pairs politics and fundraising at trivia night

Members of the Bellingham community came together for an easy-going, exciting night of food, drinks, humor and discussion at the first ever political trivia night fundraiser by Northwest Citizen, an online publication focused on politics.

The event, held at Brandywine Kitchen Wednesday, Oct. 12, attempted to raise money for the re-designing of the publication’s website.

The fundraiser was organized by Riley Sweeney, a friend and former writer for Northwest Citizen.

“Northwest Citizen has been running for a long time, and anyone who’s maintained a website, especially one with that much content, knows that you have to keep updating to make sure that it’s compatible,” Sweeney said. “The website is due for an overhaul. That doesn’t come cheap. You have to have some programmers do some tinkering.”

The website was founded in 1995 by John Servais after realizing the internet was the future.

“I started the website and started posting up news that The Bellingham Herald would not post up. That was the start,” Servais said. “It is now, we think, the oldest political blog in the world.”

According to Servais, 100 percent of the fundraiser proceeds go directly to updating the website.

The main features to be updated include the website’s compatibility with cell phones, the site’s search feature and the tools readers have with their comments, Servais said. The website puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of user comments, refusing to let them be anonymous, and as a result, continuing the conversation.

Servais said this is the fourth time the website is being updated, with the last one occurring five years ago. The updates this time will be done by Western alumnus Maggie Wettergreen.

The event itself had approximately 25 attendees split into 12 groups. There were a variety of attendees ranging from Western students and alumni to members of the local community, as well as Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler.

“I started the website and started posting up news that The Bellingham Herald would not post up. That was the start. It is now, we think, the oldest political blog in the world.”

Northwest Citizen founder John Servais

Despite the competition, it was a relaxed atmosphere as the questions prompted contestants to communicate and laugh with one another.

Attendee Carrie Blackwood said she attended because it was a different way to talk about politics.

“I like being informed about issues that are political in nature so that hopefully I can make educated decisions about choices that we have in our community,” Blackwood said.

The event promoted a sense of political awareness and political involvement.

Attendee Amy Glasser said she believes it is important for people in the community to stay politically involved.

“Bernie [Sanders] got the ball rolling, and it got all of the young people involved. I really want that to continue,” Glasser said. “I don’t think we’ve had this movement happen until Sanders, and the only way to keep it rolling is to stay involved.”

Sweeney said he thought the trivia night was a good idea to both fundraise and give community members a reason to have some fun.

Northwest citizen has tended to appeal mostly to people who are heavily interested in politics, Servais said.

“A lot of general citizens don’t know about it, and it’s really appealed over the years to people who are political junkies,” Servais said. “We’re trying to make it more accessible and more interesting to other citizens who want more news.”

Throughout the event, the questions prompted several individual conversations among groups ranging from past presidents, the current election, women’s rights and the many pets that have lived in the White House.

“Northwest Citizen is a non-partisan news site,” Sweeney said. “It has been doing original reporting for many years, and it is important to keep our community media funded and supported during this time when newspapers are struggling.”


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