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CHS Pics | Big turnout as Capitol Hill hosts first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival


Ice Cream Festival 2016 - 15 of 17
Sunday’s first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival might be the first when the exaggerated number of people claiming to be interested in a Facebook event may have been close to accurate.

It’s unlikely that 55,000 or even 15,000 attended — but if enthusiasm is any sign, the second festival might be a slightly larger production.

Sunday, a few thousand people stuffed 11th Ave and filled in the open marketplace of Chophouse Row to sample a taste or buy a scoop or three of the frozen treats from some of Capitol Hill and the city’s leading ice cream producers: Sweet Bumpas, Molly Moon, Bluebird, Cupcake Royale, Gelatiamo, Balleywood Creamery, Kurt Farm Shop, Full Tilt, Parfait, Half Pint, Trove, and Pink’s. Songs will be sung of the dozen first year providers who braved the pandemonium. Even neighboring doggie daycare Play on the Hill got in on the act with frozen treats for canine pals.

There were no contests or awards. Just a chance to buy and taste great ice cream. “It’s not about who’s better or who’s bigger,” Kurt Farm Shop’s Kurt Timmermeister told CHS about his plans for the free festival earlier this year. The result was a sunny and packed experience with a record high concentration of children on Capitol Hill.

It is almost certain that many remembering the day’s event will take a turn toward the Yelp end of things and let CHS know about the awful long lines, confusing layout, unclear offerings, and general gooey nut clusterness of it all. But you’ll also have to admit — that ice cream was pretty good.

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8 thoughts on “CHS Pics | Big turnout as Capitol Hill hosts first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival

  1. “Viral events” continue to amaze me. When a person sees that thousands of people are signed up for a huge event at a small space, invites his friends anyway, and drives a long distance to get here, what exactly is that person supposed to expect?

    More people were “interested” in the ice cream festival than can fit into Safeco Field. Why they chose to drive to a small space with no parking and huge lines is beyond my comprehension. It’s ice cream. Good ice cream is everywhere.

  2. I was hoping this was going to be a neighborhood event. Thought I might stroll over in the afternoon. Skipped it because it was too large. I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that my neighborhood is a “destination” now. Sigh.

  3. Do other cities have this problem for these types of things?

    It seems every time Seattle tries to have something like this, it becomes a total cluster. The Capitol Hill food truck rodeo a couple years ago on 11th Ave was a total trainwreck. The night market a few months ago in the ID wasn’t much better. Everything becomes waiting in line for 50 minutes to pay for a sample of something from a truck.

    In this case, it seemed that most people gave up on the actual festival and just got in long lines at local ice cream stores.

    • Yes. My brother lives in New York. The Big Apple Barbecue Party is a similar kind of festival, but in a park. Huge crowds, huge lines, huge interest.

      In Seattle is we have a few professionally-run food festivals like the Bite of Seattle. Thanks to Facebook marketing, even a small community event like this one can go viral. That leads to an expectation that smaller events like Pierogi Fest or the Ice Cream festival are professionally run and capable of handling 10k+ crowds. Then they become inundated with guests with overly high expectations.

  4. Maybe if these things happened more often, there wouldn’t be such an overwhelming demand for each one?

    Like others, I wanted to check this out. But once I saw the mobs, I did a 180 and went home. I’ll just go try these ice cream places individually. Several thousand people doing it the same time I do doesn’t really enhance my experience anyway.

    • I want to second this and add some anecdata. I lived in a mid-size (~130,000) German city for about 1.5 years, where a big part of the local economy was wine production. They managed the crowds by having wine festivals almost once a week during the summer.

      Some of the more popular ones (like the one held in the palace in the middle of the city) would get crowded and unpleasant, but the sheer number of such events tamped down on the FOMO.

      It’s traumatic to have the neighborhood overrun by hoards of outsiders, but paradoxically it might help if these events happened more often.