What started out as a pandemic safety net might become a permanent Enumclaw attraction.
That’s right, the closing of Cole Street for weekend diners and shoppers — and the now-iconic fire pits — may continue long after the coronavirus is brought under control.
To make this happen, though, the city and the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce need your help, or at least your dollars.
When Sundays on Cole Street ended in September, local businesses still wanted to attract people downtown. But once the weather started to turn from sultry late-summer evenings to frigid fall nights, organizers were left with a conundrum: how do you continue to attract people outside?
The answer was free fire pits for the community to gather around as they continued to shop and eat. At first, the fire pits were brought out only on Fridays, when a small market would gather under the tent on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Cole Street, but the one-day event eventually spilled into Saturdays and Sundays as well.
“This whole shutdown of Cole Street on the weekends has been so great for our town,” said Chamber Event Organizer Kerry Solmonsen. “Yes, there have been a few people opposed, and we understand that plight, but for the most part, it’s been incredible.”
But while Solmonsen is pushing for the fire pits to become a weekend fixture, the decision isn’t up to her, or the Chamber, but the Enumclaw City Council.
According to Council member Chance la Fleur, no official decision has been made in regards to making weekend Cole Street closures permanent, but “they are going to be there for awhile longer for sure,” he said in a March 24 email. “I can’t speak for the council, but they have generally been in support of these type of things in the past.”
In general, Cole Street will continue to be closed starting Fridays at 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., as well as Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Friday Night Market, which has recently been held in the old Kelly’s Mercantile building, is again moving to the corner of Cole Street and Myrtle Avenue, as the city’s lease with the building owner expired.
KEEP THE FIRE PITS LIT
At first, the propane for the fire pits was donated by Peak Propane. However, as the fire pits started to be lit the entire weekend, the Chamber started cutting them a check, albeit at a reduced rate.
The Chamber spends about $100 a week to buy the propane for the fire pits, Solmonsen said — not so much that funding these events puts the Chamber in a difficult financial position, but enough to where the Chamber is hoping the Enumclaw community will take some financial ownership to lessen some of the pressure, especially if this is to continue as a weekly attraction.
So now when you come down to enjoy the fire pits on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you may see “Keep the Fire Pits Lit” signs on Cole Street, complete with a QR code that leads you to a Paypal site so you can donate money to the Chamber (https://paypal.me/EnumclawCommunity?locale.x=en_US).
“Five bucks here, ten bucks there, $20 bucks there — if you came down with your family and you enjoyed the fire pits for a couple of hours, scan the thing and give $5,” Solmonsen said.
Luckily, donations have already started flowing in; the Paypal account has yielded a few hundred dollars, and Washington Custom Concrete has donated $1,000.
That said, if you can’t financially contribute to the weekend fire pits, you can always volunteer to help set them up; according to the city of Enumclaw’s Cultural Programs and Event Coordinator Alina Hibbs, it only takes about an hour to set up and take down fire pits, chairs, and road signs if they have four or five people helping out.
To volunteer, email Hibbs at firstname.lastname@example.org.