Nile Valley Music Festival Organizers Expect About 1,500 People For Sept. 7-9 Event
By Molly Allen
There are a number of outdoor festivals available to music lovers in the Pacific Northwest, but many would say they don’t offer the sense of community that Chinook Fest has for the past six years.
The music festival at Jim Sprick Community Park in the Nile Valley, 18 miles west of Naches, has brought together hundreds of music and nature lovers every September since 2012.
The festival, scheduled for Sept. 7-9 this year, has grown from 500 attendees in its first year to an anticipated 1,500 this year.
Now in its seventh year, Chinook Fest was born thanks to the people of the Nile Valley, according to Cody Beebe, owner of Chinook Entertainment.
After one of Beebe’s bands, Cody Beebe and The Crooks, completed an extensive tour, friends of the band reached out to see if they could throw a coming home party for them in the summer of 2012.
The band decided to turn the idea around and throw a party celebrating all of the local support their band had received.
The decision was made in May and a venue was located in June of that year. By July, Chinook Fest launched its website to sell tickets for the upcoming celebration.
“What was definitely a crazy idea turned into one of our proudest accomplishments,” Beebe said. “Our ambition knew no bounds.”
After the first year, festival organizers have aimed to grow the three-day festival by 15 to 20 percent each year.
“We knew that with enough hard work and persistence, we could steadily grow,” Beebe said, adding that Chinook Fest has been able to maintain its boutique experience while still being able to ensure the event team has the space and logistics it needs to handle growth.
The majority of new festivalgoers learn about Chinook Fest through a friend or family member who has attended the event. Each year, the organizers aim to improve the festival by adding something new and exciting.
“We only have three days to make a huge impression,” Beebe said. “We want them to sincerely be better when they leave than when they got there.”
Chinook Fest prides itself on offering a quality lineup that is “rooted in American music” and a number of outdoor activities, including fishing, rafting, rock-climbing and outdoor yoga.
The festival currently utilizes 40 to 50 volunteers per year, under the direction of Beebe’s business partners, Michelle Vandenbrink and Dawn Gardner. Chinook Entertainment’s family members are also heavily involved.
“They work tirelessly on the festival and are a huge part of why it has such a ‘family feel,’” Beebe said.
For volunteer David Paulson, 2018 will be his fourth year volunteering for Chinook Fest. He fell in love with it when he attended for the first time in 2013.
“My wife and I are such fans of the solid community, the music and the location — so much so that we were married at the Elk Ridge Lodge Campground, right next to the festival site, a few years ago,” Paulson said.
Paulson has been involved ever since he first heard about Chinook Fest from a local friend. Now, he will attend as a sponsor through Varietal Beer Co. this year. He is one of the owners of the Sunnyside-based brewery, which opened a taproom this spring.
Beebe said people like Paulson have helped keep the festival running smoothly.
“So many amazing people have lent their time and energy, overworked and underpaid, so that we could continue to grow this festival,” he said. “Knowing that it’s financially growing at the same time is just the cherry on top.”
Chinook Entertainment’s expertise has also been enlisted to help with other community events, including Downtown Summer Nights and Roots & Vines.
“This place inspires me every day,” Beebe said.
In addition to planning the annual Nile Valley event, the company works with Gilbert Cellars on its lineup for Music in the Vines and has taken over all the entertainment bookings at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum.
The group also handles a number of bookings for one-time events, such as Ellensburg’s WindFall Cider Festival in October.
Beebe also owns Digital Vendetta Productions with band-mate Eric Miller, who was also one of the co-creators of Chinook Fest.
Beebe is a graduate of Selah High School, and he spent summers riding horseback and camping on Chinook Pass.
“My dad sure taught me from a young age to love the outdoors,” said Beebe, now 33 years old. Beebe’s mom and stepdad live just outside of Naches on Highway 410, which has had a big influence on the festival and its tie to the community.
Beebe said he loves the Nile Valley because it is such a tight-knit community.
“I have met amazing people up there that bend over backward for their friends and neighbors,” he said. “That’s the kind of community I want Chinook Fest to grow within, and hopefully we can continue to give back to the community as well.”
Originally published in the Yakima Business Times