Moxee Hop Festival memories

August is here and for most of us in the Yakima Valley that also means it's time for the Moxee Hop Festival! Locals from all over the valley will venture out to the Moxee City Park and enjoy two days of live music, vendors, food and of course ... beer.

The Moxee Hop Festival actually began in 1948 because local businessmen in Moxee decided there was a need for a local pool -- to keep kids out the dangerous irrigation ditches. So as a way to fund the pool, they hosted a community event and selected some royalty to sell tickets, with ticket proceeds going to the building of the pool. If you have been out to Moxee, you can clearly see that they raised enough money for a pool -- however, it took them 23 festivals to get the pool paid off!

Since then, the Hop Festival has evolved with the times and adapted to the growth of Moxee. But locals still look forward to it every year.

Al Benny, a longtime member of the East Valley community, says the Hop Festival is a reunion type of atmosphere that gives friends an opportunity to gather once a year and give back to the town that really gives to its community members.

Moxee's local brewery, Bale Breaker Brewing Co., will be on site during the Moxee Hop Festival as well, and I had the chance to talk with East Valley graduate and owner Meghann Quinn a little about the festival.

I asked her what it means to Bale Breaker to be included in the beer garden.

"Bale Breaker is extremely proud to be located in the city of Moxee (aka Hop Capital of the World)," she told me. "So participating in Moxee’s annual community event, especially one that celebrates all of the hops grown just outside our back door, was a must. We’ve participated every year since we opened in 2013, and we love that our community is proud of what we’ve built here and so supportive of our beer and brewery."

So how does it feel on a personal level?

"Being a proud East Valley native myself," Meghann answered, "it was a dream come true when we were first able to participate in the Moxee Hop Festival six years ago. The Moxee Hop Festival is like a mini high school reunion for us EVHS folks!"

What beer will they have on tap this year?

"This year, we will be showcasing my current fave in our beer line-up, Hop Country Session IPA," she said. "This is the first in our new IPA Rotator Series. It’s easy-drinking and low ABV but packed with hop flavor and aroma. Perfect for a hop festival! In addition, we’ll be pouring the beers that literally got us to where we are today, the first two beers Bale Breaker ever released, Field 41 Pale Ale and Topcutter IPA."

Will we continue to see Bale Breaker at the Hop Festival in years to come? "Most definitely!" Meghann said. And, I asked, can we expect anything new to hit the taproom soon?

"You sure can! A lot of stuff is still in the works, but we’re tapping new, small-batch beers out of our Imagination Station every week (exclusive to the taproom), and the second beer in our IPA Rotator Series will be hitting shelves in September. Stay tuned!"

I, of course, asked Meghann if they were doing anything special for the weekend and like the classy woman she is, she says as much as they love being the go-to spot before the festival opens they don't want to take away from festival attendance.

I also had a chance to talk to a few lifelong Moxee residents.

Kaleb Schrank, who is the assistant operations manager at B.T. Loftus Ranches, said, "The Hop Festival is a time where we can come together as a community and celebrate all of the hardworking families and individuals that are within this great industry. It is also a time of celebration as we approach the upcoming hop harvest. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on by community members to make the Hop Festival possible, and farmers as a whole help out by essentially being on standby for being able to donate equipment, props or anything else that is needed to help make the Hop Festival successful. I think that our local farmers pride themselves on how much support we receive from our community. A lot of our community works within the hop industry, so it is something we can all take pride in together."

When I asked Jacee Brost what the Moxee Hop Festival means to her, she agreed that it tends to feel like a family reunion. But it holds other memories for her, too.

"It was the little bit of freedom we all got right before school to see everyone (without getting into trouble for talking in class)," Jacee said. "It’s about the community coming out to support each other and just have a good time. Now it means even more being a parent, and seeing old friends with their kids. It’s us all over again. And some of these people I no longer talk to or see, but when I see them there, it’s like we never skipped a beat. It’s family. It’s watching little versions of us. (Scary) but it’s fun."

Taylor Jones, whose family has deep roots in the East Valley farming community, says, "The hop festival is a celebration of the great Moxee community and a dedication to all the hop growers and families that made roots here and worked so hard to make this event possible. And it goes back to generations and generations of families, including mine. I feel it’s just a wonderful way to kick off hop harvest and show appreciate to the farming community. I look forward to this event because it’s a time to unwind, relax and enjoy great entertainment and cold beers with friends and families from all over the valley. It’s gives them the chance to come to Moxee and see what this community is all about."

When I asked people on Facebook what they look forward to the most, many mentioned the family-like atmosphere -- they want and need to be surrounded by friends. David Knoll said he would like to have the snowmobile races back. Kristi Huddleston-Zieger, who is a raving Seahawks fan, has enjoyed the visits from the Sea Gals in recent years.

As for me, I could go on and on. I am born and raised in Moxee, and the Moxee Hop Festival runs in my veins. I was Miss Moxee Hop Festival in 2008 and watched many friends be crowned. I worked the dunk tank as a cheerleader, and before that, I helped in the kids area and have been in countless Moxee Hop Festival parades. I have been in a group huddle with my best friends and my dad making a plan for how and where we would meet back up after the street dance, I have driven friends home and I have cleaned up after the festival.

This festival is about much more than beer and hops (although that is nice), though. It's about community, family, a sense of togetherness. The one down side to the Moxee Hop Festival -- which we can probably all agree on -- is that some way, somehow, it always manages to be the hottest weekend of the summer!

We hope to see you there!

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