PORT ANGELES — A big tent needs a big space and a festival celebrating seafood needs to be on the water. The Red Lion Hotel’s plans to transform a barren parking area on the west side of its property into a pedestrian-friendly plaza pose a challenge to the three-day Dungeness Crab Festival, whose 17,000-square-foot tent takes over the space every October.
The event, which shuts down Lincoln Street from Front Street to Railroad Avenue, and takes over City Pier and The Gateway Transit Center, attracts thousands of visitors to downtown Port Angeles.
“We’re trying to come up with a design that works cohesively with the Crab Festival because we understand the importance of that event,” said Donya Alward, general manager of the Red Lion.
“We’re not doing this in a silo. We’re trying to make it for the betterment of downtown and not jeopardize anything that we currently have.”
Scott Nagel, the executive director of the Crab Festival, said that he has known for a couple of years that the hotel’s renovation plans could impact the event’s future at the site but had only recently seen the concept design plans that illustrate the extent of the renovation.
Nagel said that festival already feels squeezed into its current site and there is no other place for it to go if it wants to be near the harbor.
“It’s a waterfront festival and it needs a lot of room,” Nagel said.
“It’s an integral party of the downtown and we’re hopeful on working with everybody to come up with a new plan that would work for everyone. But if they just implemented what they have drawn now, we couldn’t hold the festival there.”
The 2023 festival Oct. 6-8 will be held at its present location, but after that it’s unclear where it might end up.
“Big events like the Crab Festival need to be planned a year in advance so we have to have this resolved this year, so that we can then do planning for next year,” Nagel said.
Nonetheless, Nagel said he was confident that a plan could be reached with Alward and the Red Lion ownership about continuing to hold the Crab Festival on the hotel property.
He said that he would also at some point like to talk to the city about how to attract more events downtown by creating a venue that could be used throughout the year.
“I think we have a really great opportunity to turn this area into an event plaza that could actually be usable by more festivals,” Nagel said.
“I have no doubt that we can make a fantastic event space.”
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com