Due to budget cuts, the city of Mercer Island canceled several events including its largest and longest-running Summer Celebration. But despite the cuts, Islanders are making an effort to keep activities running in the city.
Larry Sarchin, a long-time resident, said the effort started a few weeks ago on the website, Nextdoor. Islanders were commenting about the loss of the Proposition 1 levy measure (in November 2018) and how there would be no Summer Celebration. Instead of mourning, Sarchin said he decided to do something about it.
“Why don’t we just start our own summer celebration?” Sarchin said he suggested on Nextdoor. “We’re capable humans.”
In just a matter of weeks, Sarchin said Islanders planned the first ever All-Island Fourth of July Picnic.
The All-Island Fourth of July Picnic will take place from noon to 4 p.m. at Mercerdale Park (3009 77th Ave. SE). Activities will include kids activities like bubble blowing and a soccer obstacle course, adult games like cornhole and giant Jenga, guided nature walks and kids’ story times. Islanders are encouraged to bring their own food.
Sarchin said they’re “just starting a picnic,” with no agenda. It’s only been in the works for a few weeks, but he hopes it can get bigger in the years to come.
“No one is pushing anything,” he said. ” We’ve invited running candidates and current council members to meet everything. It’s a non-confrontational environment. We’re not taking any positions in anything. We just want people to have fun.”
Sarchin stressed that he doesn’t want to take away from the city because he understands why they needed to make the cut.
“I’m not upset about it. It’s clearly a logical cost,” he said. “I always thought that you should never depend on a government entity to provide your entertainment. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to set up a party.”
Interim director of Parks and Recreation Ryan Daly said he’s excited to see the community step in to fill a void.
“We couldn’t be happier,” Daly said about the community effort. “Having a community step up is how we’re going to bring some of these events back and continue to build community. This group is stepping up and I can’t thank them enough for doing that.”
Daly said the biggest challenge is they don’t have the budget for additional events, so with this group willing to cover the event financially gives them the opportunity to meet these needs.
“When we have a community group that comes forward with a detailed plan, and we check off all the boxes and permit it, then we can move forward,” he said. “Should we see Summer Celebration come back down the road…we want to add new things as well, but it’s going to be on the backs of groups like this. Reach out to us. Any group wanting to do something or have great ideas around new events or ways to bring community together, we can partner and help out.”
Sarchin said on the Nextdoor post that the picnic is a time to “meet your neighbors and have a great conversation.”