Choochokam looks for new leaders

Choochokam is ready for new energy to push it up the festival ladder, organizers say.

“It’s time for additional people and vision,” Patricia Friedman, director of Langley’s annual arts and music festival for the past three years, said Thursday.

“We’re looking for people who want to steer the ship,” she said.

Friedman, of Langley, and Sherry Mays, Choochokam board president and executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, have spearheaded the 35-year-old summer-weekend event since a nonprofit organization was created to run it in 2007.

Both said they will be too busy with other responsibilities to oversee the growing needs of the festival, but both intend to participate in the transition to new leadership.

“It’s been an amazing journey so far,” Mays said. “I’m proud of the organization and look forward to it growing and carrying on the rich arts tradition in our community.”

Choochokam Arts, annually held on the weekend following the Fourth of July, attracts thousands of visitors from throughout the region to browse among works of art and listen to live music.

Friedman said that last year’s festival drew about

15,000 people.

“Choochokam has become a community event,” Friedman said. “We’re looking for people who have ideas and want to contribute.”

Mays said the current Choochockam Arts board has six members. Friedman said the organization could use another four to six people at the top to help the festival reach its potential.

Friedman said each Choochokam takes months to organize, and she hopes a new group of movers and shakers will be in place in January.

“Choochokam” is a Hopi word roughly meaning “a gathering of stars.” It was considered ideal to describe the festival, which was launched in the 1970s by the Island Arts Council to support its scholarship program for young local talent.

“It’s a real opportunity for up-and-coming artists,” Friedman said.

The festival underwent several changes through the years before becoming a nonprofit community event.

Friedman said Choochokam is financed by artists’ booth fees and contributions from individuals and businesses in the community. Mays said last year’s event required about $35,000 to put on.

“Our goal is to be self-sustaining,” Friedman said. “We’ve been working in that direction.”

Friedman has been involved in a number of community events, including Langley’s annual Holiday Parade, which this past weekend drew more than 200 participants.

She and her family moved to Whidbey Island five years ago, and her two children attend South Whidbey Elementary School.

“It’s been a great three years,” she said of her involvement in the festival.

“Choochokam is really ready for new ideas,” she added. “We want to keep it moving forward.”

For information about Choochokam, call Mays at the Langley Chamber of Commerce at 221-6765, or e-mail

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