Enumclaw Expo Center loses Creation Festival

The largest of Enumclaw's summer festivals is packing up its tent and returning to its eastern Washington roots.

Creation Festivals had made the Enumclaw Expo Center its home the past four years, filling the city for four days while attendees attended concerts and other activities associated with the nation's largest Christian festival. While not on the Expo Center grounds, Creation guests bought gas and groceries, sipped lattés and patronized downtown merchants.

The decision by Creation Festivals LLC became public during an Oct. 23 budget meeting of the City Council and was confirmed in a press release issued the following day by City Hall.

The announcement that Creation Fest would move to Enumclaw was greeted by great fanfare in November 2009, seen as a much-needed shot in the arm to boost an ailing economy. Creation came for 2010 and remained for three more summers. Most of the attendees camped at the site for the duration of the festival, arriving from throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

Previously, Creation had made its home for a dozen years at The Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Wash., a popular concert venue on the eastern bluff overlooking the Columbia River. When the decision to move operations to Enumclaw was first announced, organizers said Enumclaw was an upgrade due to closer proximity to urban services and the easy jaunt from the populated I-5 corridor.

Apparently, the appeal has worn off.

“Creation Festival, along with its concerts and many activities, has always been about the camping experience for families, kids, church groups and just about all ages," said Creation's Bill Darpino. "We love the Enumclaw Expo Center as a concert venue, but we have seen a growing need to be back in Eastern Washington with its sunny, warm weather and river front parks, to provide a unique camping experience for our attendees.”

While the Gorge Amphitheatre is no longer in the cards, Creation will be floating downriver to the Tri-Cities beginning in 2014.

Creation Festival could be a noisy venture, with concerts cranking out loud music until 11 p.m., but was otherwise welcomed by the city.

"Aside from noise complaints from residents nearby, the event had no negative impact on the community or public safety providers," stated the city's press release.

“Creation brought many positive attributes to our community and will be sorely missed,” Mayor Liz Reynolds said. “I wish them all the best.”

Creation was one of four major events hosted each summer at the Expo Center, along with the Scottish Highland Games, the Olympic Kennel Club dog show and the King County Fair.

The departure of the Christian music festival will likely spur ongoing discussions surrounding the Expo Center's fiscal impact on the city and future operation of the grounds, which were turned over to the city by King County in 2007.

The center has operated at a deficit since landing in the city's lap, but annual deficits have decreased since 2011. Reserves had been projected to sustain operations through 2016 at least, but the loss of Creation causes that scenario to crumble. Now, it's anticipated operating reserves will be depleted by 2014. City administration is now reviewing options and opportunities with a goal of making the Expo Center a financially viable asset.

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