Winter Festival, then and now
Mother-daughter planning pair reflect on the past 40 years
Many of you have enjoyed the PNA’s Winter Festival for as long as you can remember. That’s because it’s PNA’s oldest event—it turns 40 this year! (Although we’re virtual for this one).
During those years, only a handful of people have coordinated the event—two are a mother-daughter pair. Ann Bowden held the reins for eight years, beginning in 1986 and she’s still a dedicated volunteer.
Three years ago, her daughter, Jessie Hammer, took over as Winter Festival coordinator.
What’s it like “passing the torch?” How does it feel to run an event you’ve been a part of since you were a child? What changes have the two of them seen over the years?
We invited the two of them to reflect a bit on their experiences with this beloved PhinneyWood event.
Tell us about the early years:
Ann Bowden (AB): It’s always been a labor-intensive event: wrangling vendors, performers, volunteers. For me, in the early years, it meant a lot of evenings on the phone – there was no email then.
But I loved the intensity and energy of the event itself. And because I “recruited” my husband and kids, we really turned the event into a family affair for us.
Both kids dressed in Barney the Dinosaur costume for photos one year (you probably had to be there). My husband always helped with clean up and at the information booth. My father even repaired the Blue Building’s kitchen sink two days before the event one year.
Jessie Hammer (JH): When my mom coordinated the event, I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. I loved the event itself! The vendors, the crowd, the energy, it was all so much fun. I walked around the building thinking and acting like I was in charge. But it was a lot of work for my mom leading up to the event and I did not like sharing her attention.
What changes did you make to the festival over the years?
AB: The Festival was originally an open house to celebrate the opening of the Phinney Neighborhood Center. The basic elements of the event were there from the very beginning—crafts vendors, entertainment, and food—powered by lots of volunteers, but over the eight years I ran it we made some major changes—adding a second day, adding a second building, adding jurors to build the quality of the crafts.
I was terrified the year we added the second building. It just seemed like such an exponential jump. I wasn’t sure we could manage two buildings.
JH: When I took over the event it had been a well-established, very successful event for 36 years. I was excited and nervous to fill the role of coordinator and actually be in charge as opposed to my seven-year-old self just acting the part.
The first year, I stuck to the same formula that had made the event so great. The next year, though, I wanted to put a little bit more of myself into it. I added some outdoor vendors, a beer/wine garden, and a festival passport. And of course this year, we’re going virtual.
What’s your favorite memory?
AB: In the early years, particularly when it was just one day, one building, several of us—Ed and Susan Medeiros and their sons, Marcia and Dan Brunner and their daughter, and our family—would be the cleanup volunteers. We’d put away the tables and chairs, sweep, and mop the floors.
Then we’d pull out a table, bring out the leftover food – in those days we sold hot dogs, salads, and pizzas in addition to the huge bake sale – and have dinner.
THEN—we’d clear off the table and count money. Kids and adults around the table counting and organizing lots of bills (mostly ones and fives then) but LOTS and LOTS of coins. It was just such a bonding way to end the event.
JH: I agree. It was fun and special to be the only ones left at the end of the day after all the hustle and bustle. To sit and have pizza and count as many quarters and dimes as I could. I really don’t know how she had the energy to do that at the end of the day, though. When I finish the day all I want to do is get home and ice my feet!
I have a second memory that will stick with me for a while as well! Last year, on Saturday night, the two of us went to Ken’s Market to get some additional orange juice, soda, and apple cider for Sunday. We loaded up the cart and paid and then realized it was going to be a hassle to load it all in and out of the car and into the building and up to the third floor. So, we asked if we could just take the cart! There we were, 9 o’clock on Saturday night walking down Phinney Ave pushing a shopping cart full of drinks!
It is also just very special to be able to do this with the help of my mom! I would not be able to do it without her. It definitely feels like it has come full circle. Though I’m not sure if she would say I helped her as much as she helps me.
What is/was the hardest thing about coordinating the event?
AB: The fact that it was only one of many events and activities I was working on. In the early days, I coordinated events, membership, and volunteers. Thankfully that changed in time but it was hard to just concentrate on getting this event right.
JH: Not being able to include all of the artists that apply! Everyone’s products are so wonderful and they work so hard to show it off to our jury. It is hard to turn people away when they have put so much of themselves into it. I wish we could accept everyone!
This year the event will take a huge turn and go virtual. We are planning a great event where we can connect our maker and shopping communities.
Join us online December 4-6 to see your favorite vendors and find some new ones too!