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Capitol Hill Block Party expands free events held beyond festival gates

(Image: Capitol Hill Block Party)

Two blocks of E Pike are home to music, food, and troves of festival goers as Capitol Hill Block Party takes to the streets this weekend. Although increasing artist fees and production costs have raised ticket prices in recent years, CHBP plans to celebrate Capitol Hill beyond festival gates by offering a variety of free events.

“We’re excited about this year’s expansion of free events that will allow people who aren’t attending CHBP to still participate and enjoy the community celebration, while still getting a taste of CHBP,” said Kate Harris, CHBP’s executive producer.

While producers says Block Party attendance has not increased in the past eight years, the festival has continued to cement itself in Seattle’s music and arts scene, attracting big-name headliners across music genres. According to Harris, artist fees have tripled since 2012 and production costs have increased exponentially, resulting in a notable rise in festival ticket prices.

With crowds exceeding 20,000 people, surging ticket prices, and performances from mainstream talent, Block Party has strayed from its roots as a small, neighborhood celebration. According to Harris, this evolution has not gone unnoticed by the festival’s organizers, as CHBP has offered free events co-organized by a variety of local nonprofits, hosted at Cal Anderson Park and nearby businesses in recent years. This year, CHBP will expand upon its free events.

BATTLE OF THE BLOCK SKATEBOARDING: CHBP will partner with 35th North to put on the second annual Battle on the Block skateboarding competition. On Saturday the skate competition will ensue with kid’s, women’s, open, and pro heats. On Sunday, local non profit Skate Like A Girl is partnering with 35th North to host an open community skate session. The community skate session will include music, prizes, and skating lessons.

Kristen Ebling, the executive director of Skate Like A Girl, believes the community skating event will play an important role in grounding the rapidly maturing festival, paying homage to CHBP’s community-centric beginnings.

“I remember going to block party when I was a teenager and it was either free or super cheap because I could afford it with my part time job money,” said Ebling. “I think the free aspect of the event, skateboarding, and music will help bring people together and build community.”

Ebling recognizes lack of an entry fee is only half the job in making an event accessible, noting comfortability of attendees is also important in “building community.”

“The focus of our organization is on equity. Sterotypical skaters are white cis males, so for us to be able to create a space for people outside of that dominant identity- a space where women, queer people, and trans people feel comfortable is really important,” said Ebling.

(Image: CHS)

BAT N’ ROUGE SOFTBALL: Along with partnering with organizations to put on free, inclusive events at the festival, CHBP will revive the Bat N’ Rouge softball game on Sunday. According to Harris, the queer, stunt-filled faceoff between the Drag Queens and the LEZBROZ occurred the same weekend as CHBP in 2014. Harris and other organizers of CHBP appreciated the synergy between the softball game and the festival as the two events intermingled.

“When we looked into finding out what happened to the game, we realized it was no longer being organized and that funding and/or support had dried up,” said Harris. “Egan Orion connected us with Ceasar Hart, who expressed interest in helping revive and organize it. We’re excited to see it come to life again this weekend during CHBP, especially since it’s supporting Lifelong and bringing back a fun, free event that people have missed.”

The softball game will be emceed by local drag queens Gaysha Starr and La Saveona Hunt. The LEZBROZ team will be lead by Hart, and Drag Queens team will be lead by Miss Tylah May Jackson. Attendees can pay players to perform stunts, and revenue from the game will be donated to Lifelong, the event’s beneficiary. CHBP will match the game’s fundraising efforts, hoping to raise $5,000 for Lifelong.

“The music, art, and LGTBQ community have been struggling to keep Capitol Hill a place they can call home,” Harris said. “We want to support these communities through things like our annual funding of Art Walk, visual art partnerships during the weekend, partnerships throughout the year like Bat’N Rouge and Lifelong, and through the large variety of talent we’re working to bring to Capitol Hill.”

MORE! Capitol Hill Block Party will also put on many other free events integrating Cal Anderson Park and local businesses into the festival, including the Pure Barre Outdoor Pop-Up, the Sweatbox Yoga Outdoor Pop-Up, CHBP Artist Panel + Q&A, DJs at Chophouse Row Courtyard, CHBP Photo Showcase at Caffe Vita, the Mind Your Own Uterus Benefit, and the CHBP Poster Show at Vermillion Art Gallery.

To learn more about these events, visit

Other activities and events will also hope to catch the attention of the crowds drawn by CHBP. A Pacific Northwest clash of professional ultimate teams will take place on Bobby Morris at Cal Anderson Saturday night as mixed rosters for the Seattle Cascades and Portland Swifts do battle.

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