PULLMAN — Organizers of the National Lentil Festival have set a date for the return of the Pullman event after it was canceled for the past two years.
The event — which usually includes a parade, vendors, music and a big bowl of lentil chili in downtown Pullman — is scheduled for Aug. 19-20.
Marie Dymkoski, director of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, said planning for the event needed to begin several months in advance so organizers could secure funding, talk to sponsors and open vendor registration.
“It’s a great boon to the community and businesses here,” she said.
The popular event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 for reasons related to COVID-19.
Washington’s restrictions on large gatherings amid the pandemic led to its cancellation in 2020. Last year, Dymkoski said, the chamber didn’t have enough money or staff to hold the festival. The National Lentil Festival receives funding from Pullman’s accommodation tax, which has taken a hit during the pandemic.
In 2021, the Lentil Festival has been replaced by a number of smaller, separate downtown events. For example, Pullman Civic Trust and Pullman Chamber of Commerce invited cyclists and joggers to participate in the inaugural 7-mile “Pedal Pullman” event.
Dymkoski said there has been a recent increase in accommodation taxes, which should free up funds for the Lentil Festival. The chamber still needs more staff, she said, but has hired Britnee Christen as festival director and Tony Posten as head of entertainment recruiting.
She said the festival is a tribute to the city’s farming community and features the only Pullman parade of the year.
It is also intended to welcome back WSU students for the fall semester. Dymkoski pointed out that there are two classes of WSU students who have never experienced the National Lentil Festival due to its recent cancellations.
She said those cancellations had left “a real hole” as it took away the opportunity for the community to come together.
“Everyone is eager to get some semblance of normality back,” she said.