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Fairhaven Festival closes the town for a day of celebration

The Ski to Sea finish line brings a day of fun on May 28

Mckenzie Avenue is packed with people enjoying live music at Fairhaven Festival. The music stage used to be built on Mckenzie Avenue but since COVID it has moved to the Village Green. // Photo courtesy of Heather Carter at Fairhaven Association

For fans of food, beer and live music, the Fairhaven Festival is the place to be on Sunday, May 28, where the finish line of the 50th annual Ski to Sea race brings thousands of people to celebrate in Fairhaven.

The Ski to Sea annual race started as a three-leg race but is now a 93-mile-long seven-leg race from Mt. Baker Ski Area to Fairhaven. The legs are cross-country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclo-cross biking and sea kayaking.

For Ski to Sea’s 50th race, the race committee planned to get a team from all 50 states, and although they did not get all 50, they are expecting teams from 40 different states.

The race is close to being a sell-out. 480 teams have signed up, and the cap is at 500. The race is also selling 50th-anniversary merchandise at the finish line. 

Marine Park sees an influx of people to watch the sea kayakers cross the finish line. Attendees often packed the restaurants and bars afterward, leading the Fairhaven Association to create the festival to better prepare for the large crowds and so that local businesses could benefit from the influx of people. 

The Fairhaven festival we know today started the year after the finish line was moved to Marine Park in 1984 and was first called It All Ends in Fairhaven.

This year, there will be 70 craft and service vendors, 11 food vendors and 13 local breweries present at the festival. There will also be four local bands playing on the village green. 

Danned If We Do and Pacific Twang will take the stage in the early afternoon, while Bridge and Hot Damn Scandal will close out the show in the late afternoon and evening.

(2) Fairhaven Festival closes the town for a day of celebration

The Map for Fairhaven Festival. Nearly the whole town is closed for the festival. // Illustration courtesy of Nadine van Niekerk

Jalapeños, a local Mexican restaurant, will be at the festival again this year. A new addition to their menu this year is their partnership with Wander Brewing – the two have paired up to make a special brew, which will be $5 for a pint and $7 for 20 ounces. The restaurant will have a food truck at the festival, parked on 11th Street by the beer garden and village green.

The truck gets so busy that Jalapeños does not offer food specials. It is too hard to do specials during holidays and events, Jalapeños owner Jesse Cantu said. 

“Sometimes when [the food truck] runs out of food, we have to run rice, beans, chicken or tortillas to them to help out,” said Cantu.

According to Kolby LaBree, co-owner and operator at BellingHistory Tours with the Good Time Girls, Fairhaven has had a history of community festivals. 

One of the oldest of these was the Fairhaven Fish Festival in the 1940s. The Tulip Festival started in the 1920s and would later become the 1972 Blossomtime Festival.

Festivals like Blossomtime became prevalent in the 1970s when the neighborhood was trying to reinvent itself, and festivals brought people to shop, LaBree said. 

After Ski to Sea started in 1973, it slowly took over the Blossomtime Festival. The ‘70s also saw the introduction of the Fairhaven Fall Festival, which continued after Ski to Sea began. 

“I think that there was sort of a cultural sort of romantic revisiting of Victorian stuff in the ‘70s and ‘80s that lent itself to a Fairhaven revival,” said LaBree. This meant Fairhaven started using its historic district as an asset rather than a liability; the impact of this shift can still be seen today as the Fairhaven Festival is centered in the historic district.

Nadine van Niekerk, chair of the Fairhaven Festival committee, recommends that people bike to the festival rather than drive. Bike valets will be provided.

More information about the festival, vendors and musical performances is available on the Fairhaven Festival website.

Ben Delaney

Ben Delaney (he/him) is a city life reporter for The Front. He is a junior majoring in environmental studies journalism. In his free time, he enjoys skiing at Mt Baker, fishing on local rivers, and just spending time outdoors. You can reach him at

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