Summer festivals promise fun, but Seattle organizers hampered by rising costs

Festival season is in full swing across Puget Sound. Following last week’s colorful Pride celebrations, the Torchlight Parade is just around the corner. Tomorrow, several areas across the region will close their streets for Independence Day festivities.

However, the costs of organizing these community events, particularly in Seattle, are putting organizers in a pinch. Several shared their experiences with FOX 13 News, but were hesitant to speak on camera due to concerns of retribution. 

Charge for closing down a road

FOX 13 News obtained four different receipts from the organizer of the long-standing Seattle annual event. These bills showcase how rates have increased over a span of six years, starting in 2018. 

The first example of that uptick can be seen in the cost over time of shutting down a single road. In 2018, blocking off a street cost organizers roughly $3,200. Barricading that same stretch of pavement in 2024 cost just under $4,400. The overall percentage increase in the cost of closing the street from 2018 to 2024 is approximately 34%.

Permitting fees

Additionally, there are various flat rate fees organizers must pay. For a time, there was a sole application fee of $75. Receipts show that's risen to $88, and that the city also introduced an administrative fee of $200. After a couple years, that administrative fee rose to over $240. 

Seattle also charges $24 per vendor. Organizers feel this is an unrealistic burden. They tell FOX 13 News they often chose to underreport the number of vendors to manage costs.

Trash costs

The most staggering increase has been in cleanup costs. A bill from Recology shows that between 2016 and 2018, the cost of picking up trash doubled. Bills obtained by FOX 13 show an organizer was charged nearly $3,400 in 2016. It doubled to just under $9,000 by 2023.

The City of Seattle’s Special Events Committee, in conjunction with the Seattle Police, determines fee negotiations. The exact allocation of these funds and the justification for these increases remains unclear as inquiries for detailed breakdowns are still pending.


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