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Local music promoters line up a new place for Vashon entertainment
For island couple Pete Welch and Allison Shirk, spreading the word about Vashon’s lively arts, cultural and charity scenes has become a passion in recent months.
On New Year’s Day of this year, the pair launched a new website, www.vashonevents.com, aimed at providing a user-friendly, one-stop destination to find out about what is happening week-to-week on island stages. The website has now quite literally become a hit, drawing more than 3,000 unique visitors each month. It’s also currently a hub of information for all things musical at this year’s Strawberry Festival, an event for which Welch spent months this year lining up acts.
The success of the website has pleased Welch and Shirk, though it hasn’t necessarily surprised them.
“We thought, if we don’t do this, someone else will,” said Welch, as he sat in the command central of Vashon Events, a home office housing three computers.
Last week, the website boasted information about 35 different events coming up on Vashon in the next few weeks, including concerts, exhibits, movies, theatrical performances and fundraising events such as St. John Vianney’s upcoming Salmon Bake. Listings, laid out in an easy to access format, included posters, video links and other detailed information about each event, all accessible with a few clicks of a mouse.
But for Shirk and Welch, the new venture is about much more than simply providing publicity for upcoming shows.
“Vashon Events was formed to build and enrich the community,” Shirk said. “We want to support island businesses and artists by helping to promote happenings and creating events that bring folks together.”
To that end, Vashon Events has also begun to present its own shows, including a slate of concerts at Nirvana Restaurant and singer/songwriter showcases at the Red Bicycle Bistro. Another upcoming event, also at the Red Bicycle, will welcome Vashon musicians to the stage to perform songs from two albums: “Rubber Soul,” by the Beatles, and “Nashville Skyline,” by Bob Dylan.
“The lineup [to perform the songs on the two albums] is amazing, I can’t wait for that,” said Welch, who seems to have met and hung out with almost every musician on Vashon during the 13 years he has lived on the island.
Welch and Shirk, under the banner of Vashon Events, have also curated Vashon’s popular free summer concert series in Ober Park, working in tandem with Vashon Allied Arts and Vashon Park District, and they’ve been hired to book music at 50 North, a Seattle restaurant owned by Melinda Sontgerath, who also owns The Hardware Store Restaurant.
Welch — an experienced music promoter — has taken a lead role in Vashon’s upcoming Strawberry Festival, booking dozens of music acts for seven of the eight festival stages.
He’s particularly proud of this year’s youth stage, a place where more than 30 young island performers, ranging from singers to theatre artists, will present shows during the festival.
“We’re always trying to figure out what we can do for the kids,” he said.
Shirk, who makes her living as a busy grantwriter, has also been motivated to create opportunities for young people to both enjoy and perform in the arts on Vashon.
She said that while writing a grant to help make Vashon a drug-free community, she discovered that young people on the island had a hard time finding out about all-ages events.
“From there, the idea of a community bulletin board sprang up,” she said.
Another aim of Vashon Events is to assist local bands in expanding their audiences.
“We want to help bands build their social media and press packs so that they can get more gigs and follow their dreams,” Shirk said.
Shirk, a singer/songwriter who has played numerous gigs in Seattle, is able to provide a personal testimonial about her partner’s ability to make things happen for musicians. She met Welch a few years ago, she said, after she approached him about helping her promote her music.
Now the pair, who share a house and a life together, are hoping to attract more visitors and sponsors to their website. Both said making money from the site wasn’t a priority for now, but they would like to at least break even with the costs of maintaining it. To that end, they’ve added a virtual tip jar where visitors can make one-time or monthly donations to keep the website up and running.
And in the meantime, the two are both spending a lot of time in front of their home office computers.
A few weeks ago, Welch left a Seattle job he had held for almost two decades, working for a Seattle specialty clothing company. But despite the fact that he no longer has a lengthy commute, he says he’s busier than ever.
“I really don’t know how I did any of this before,” he said.
Visit www.vashonevents.com to find out more about upcoming island events, including two events being held as benefits to help cover the costs of producing the Vashon Events website and e-newsletter. A men’s singer/songwriter showcase will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, July 26; the “Rubber Soul/Nashville Skyline” concert will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17.