Elliot Dix (left) and Calvin Dix, of Withering Blooms, play for attendees at The Bellingham Beer and Music Festival on June 29, 2019. // Photo by Zack Jimenez
By Alex Moreno
Beer, wine, cider and liquor poured. Everything from bourbon barrel peach cider to turmeric root liqueur and cranberry-hibiscus sours were up for grabs while four Northwest bands took the stage.
The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation held the sixth annual Bellingham Beer and Music Festival: Radio Isn’t Dead from 6-10 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 at the North Bellingham Golf Course.
The foundation is a family operated nonprofit with the goal of promoting the beer and wine industry in Northwest Washington to raise funds for nonprofit human social service organizations.
“If you like alcohol we’ve got you covered,” Dan Radil, president and treasurer of the foundation, said. “We’ve got your beer, your cider, your wine and distilleries. We have distributed over $30,000 to our beneficiary organizations in the last two years.”
The event served around 300 attendants with 35 vendors including breweries, wineries, cideries, a distillery and restaurants. The foundation also organizes the Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival. These are the two events that help support their beneficiaries: the Make.Shift Project and a fundraising team called Team Joy for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“These events help bring consumers and makers together for a great, enjoyable night but also helps people learn more about the craft while supporting causes in need,” Radil said.
“We’re proud to help breweries expand their reach,” Zacchoreli Frescobaldi-Grimaldi, founder and executive director emeritus of The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation, said. Breweries being successful means more jobs in agriculture, tourism and hospitality, which creates a better community and economy.
“Every hand that contributes to getting beer to market is contributing and the bonus is being able to give profits to our beneficiaries to continue work in their communities,” Frescobaldi-Grimaldi said. “We’re a 100 percent volunteer driven organization.”
The Make.Shift Project is one of the The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation’s two beneficiaries this year. It’s a nonprofit maker’s space in downtown serving the community gallery space, art studios, a music venue and KZAX 94.9LP FM radio.
Katie Gray is the Make.Shift Project’s executive director and only full-time employee.
The festival’s theme this year is Radio Isn’t Dead to celebrate KZAX’s third anniversary, Gray said.
KZAX broadcasts independent music from the Pacific Northwest and West Coast from Make.Shift’s location. KZAX booked musical acts, coordinated with musicians, recruited 46 volunteers for the event and helped with promotion, Gray said. “Originally this was a beer and jazz festival and has since evolved to be a lot more eclectic,” Gray said.
The lineup consisted of the Hot Wax Collective, a funky and groovy Bellingham duo with a KZAX show every Wednesday night mixing vinyl records; the Withering Blooms, a six-piece funky jazz fusion groove band formed in Bellingham that relocated to Seattle; Motus, a psychedelic indie-alternative rock group from Seattle and Candace, a shoegaze psychedelic rock group from Portland, Gray said.
“It’s a really great opportunity to showcase artists and beer,” Jacob DeGuzman, guitarist and vocalist for the Withering Blooms, said. “Beers great, venues awesome and the fields are like a Bob Ross painting.”
Five of the Withering Blooms band members went to Western and this was their second time playing the event.
“It’s nostalgic to come back and play in Bellingham from Seattle and the event just keeps getting better,” DeGuzman said. “Last year, the event was on a cold, rainy June day, so having a sunny, warm day this year was a treat for everyone.”
This is Make.Shift’s second year as a beneficiary of The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation. “In the fall [The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation] write us a check that’s a donation,” Gray said. “Last year it was over $5,000, which is huge for us, because Make.Shift’s operating budget is only about $110,000.”
Make.Shift operates with one full-time employee, seven part-time employees and anywhere from 500 to 1000 volunteers throughout the year, Gray said.
“Last year it was the biggest chunk of change from a fundraiser, even though it was technically two events, that we received,” Gray said. “For 2018, they were our biggest donor.”
Brian Lofquist is a board member for The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation working to organize brewery contacts. His mother passed away three years ago from Alzheimer’s after being diagnosed 24 years ago.
Lofquist organized Team Joy for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. This will be their fourth year of fundraising and their first year as a beneficiary of The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation.
Dawn McCutcheon is the director of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Seattle division. The walk is part of the Alzheimer’s Association that benefits care, awareness and research to combat the disease.
“It’s a great event and the fact that it benefits Alzheimer’s is awesome,” McCutcheon said. “We’re very thankful for Team Joy.”
Past beneficiaries of The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation have been Our Treehouse, Lydia Place, Growing Alliances and Growing Veterans. The foundation, established three years ago, expands outreach to different nonprofits by including new beneficiaries each year.
The brewers list featured products from Bellingham, Seattle, Yakima, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Pacific City and San Francisco.
“The music is fantastic,” Jake Gobeille, brand manager for Menace Brewing in Bellingham, said. “The people here and the brewers are amazing, being here is an absolute pleasure. This is a way for breweries to showcase how they want to help people and communities.”
“Brewers take pride in their communities and these events help us support our community and build it up rather than tear it down,” Gobeille said.
“The beer selection here is second to none,” Clay Christofferson, the sales and brand manager of Farmstrong Brewing Company of Mount Vernon, said. “For smaller breweries it’s our major opportunity to get our name out.”
The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation’s next event is the Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival happening from 6-10 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Four Points by Sheraton. General Admission tickets will be $50 and VIP will be $75.
“We like beer, we like wine, but we also like to help people too,” J.D. Boucher, information technology director and board member of The Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation, said. “All profits go to nonprofits that really need the funds.”