Photo courtesy of Capitol Hill Block Party

Q & A with Capitol Hill Block Party owner, Jason Lajeunesse

The Capitol Hill Block Party is set to kick off today, July 25 at 4 p.m. with the Shy Girls melting faces at the Main Stage.

The much anticipated music festival ends Monday, July 28 at 2 a.m., and some Ballardites plan to see the festival through until the finish.

The Ballard New-Tribune caught up with the Capitol Hill Block Party owner Jason Lajeunesse, and he shed light on the history and future of the party.

What are the origins of the Block Party?

The CHBP started pretty small. In 1993, a Capitol Hill skate shop called Crescent Downworks hosted a small block party with a skateboard street course and carnival games. The first official CHBP came in 1997 and had only one small stage on 10th between Pike and Union. The festival had a handful of DJs and five bands, including Flight to Mars and Mavis Piggott. Thrift store furniture was used to help seat the many attendees. We actually didn’t start doing three-day festivals until 2010, when several participating bands like Queens of the Stone Age and The Dead Weather couldn’t all play on the same day. We expanded to fit their schedules and the rest is history.

How has the CHBP evolved from its inception? Where do you see it in the future?

We started small, but today the CHBP spans across six city blocks and attracts over 9,000 people per day. As far as future plans, I don't see the festival growing in geographical size. However, I’d love to see our online presence reach more of a global scale. I’d also like to continue to promote and support the Capitol Hill neighborhood beyond Seattle.

What does the CHBP provide for Seattle?

I’m proud of everything CHBP brings to the Seattle community on a social and economic level. It’s one of the most affordable music festivals in the country and we want to keep it that way because being an accessible festival for as many people as possible is really important. On average, we employ more than 200 people for the festival and many local restaurants and small businesses experience peak traffic during the three-day weekend. Support for some local area companies is so high that many double their work schedule to accommodate the increase in traffic. Additionally, we work directly with Capitol Hill businesses to offer discounts and promote local neighborhood businesses during the weekend. We have also raised more than $25K a year for nonprofits including Creative Advantage, an organization we’re partnering with this year that funds music and art programs in public schools. To start open the festival this year, we’re collaborating with Washington Middle School’s drum line and one of the main stage artists for an exciting opening event to the festival. From a musical standpoint, we’re committed to including both well-recognized bands and emerging artists in our lineup. We have always sought to bring exposure to the bands that come directly from the Northwest.

How do you determine which bands to offer in the line up?

Our model for booking talent is to bring in headliners that are relative to the size of the festival, but 95 percent of our programming revolves around up-and-coming acts in all genres. We always listen to fans to take into account genres or artists they are interested in hearing. We try our best to incorporate their feedback as much as we can.

What are you really excited about this year?

This year, I’m excited about the expansion of our Vera stage. We’ve invested a lot of money into expanding the talent and production for the second outdoor stage and we hope that’s something fans will be happy about. Now that it’s a proper second stage, we’ve been able to book national level artists there. It’s also open to all-ages for the first time, so even if you’re under 21 you can see some national, well-known artists.

The full schedule can be found online at http://schedule.capitolhillblockparty.com

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