By Nicole Martinson and McKinley Kellogg Thousands of people gathered in downtown Bellingham to celebrate the 17th annual April Brews Day on Saturday, April 28. One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Max Higbee Center, a local nonprofit. According to Executive Director Kait Whiteside, the fundraiser is so lucrative it provides them with about 50 percent of their annual budget for the center.. The Max Higbee Center supports teens and adults with developmental disabilities be involved in community-based recreation. Whiteside said the funding from April Brews Day funds trips to the YMCA, the Whatcom Museum and Bellingham Public Library. Although the fest did not officially start until 6:30 p.m., hundreds began lining up early on Railroad Avenue in anticipation of sampling the many delicious IPAs, porters, ciders and more waiting inside. According to the 2018 April Brews Day guidebook, 73 breweries and ten food vendors make this year’s event the biggest so far. The fundraiser also featured live local music and activities for attendees, like hula-hooping, beer pong and corn hole. More than 1,500 attendees from as far as Oregon, Idaho and California flocked to the Depot Market Square to taste craft beers from the Pacific Northwest. Whiteside referred to this year’s event as “Bellingham’s biggest beer festival.” She said April Brews Day was small when it first started, consisting of five to six breweries and a couple hundred attendees. “Without that funding, it would be really challenging to run our programs,” Whiteside said. “We probably wouldn’t be able to serve nearly as many people as we do now.” She said she found that informing April Brews Day attendees about the work the Max Higbee Center does is important so they understand where their money is going. Most volunteers and some attendees said they appreciated the opportunity to support the center while enjoying themselves at the same time. Western senior Jordan Stello said he loves beer, but but that he also goes to April Brews Day every year as a chance to support the community. “[The Max Higbee Center] supports [persons with] intellectual disabilities and integration in the community, which is huge because historically, society doesn’t have a great track record for supporting those people,” Stello said. “I’m in the special education major, so the Max Higbee Center is a huge thing [for us].” Western junior and April Brews Day volunteer Daniel Koo shared a similar sentiment. He said he thought the event was great for the Bellingham community as it combines a good cause with local interests. “Everyone’s really nice and it’s cool to see all the different brewers, as well as [knowing] it’s a good source [of funding] to the Max Higbee Center,” Koo said. To learn more about the Max Higbee Center, visit their website at www.maxhigbee.org.