Herb and Food Fair brings Bastyr community together

When Bastyr University’s Herb and Food Fair started nearly two decades ago, it was the idea of a single, herbally minded student who organized and coordinated everything.

Now in its 19th year, the fair — which is held on the Bastyr campus at 14500 Juanita Drive N.E. in Kenmore — has expanded to include nearly two dozen student organizers from a number of the school’s various departments and has become an event that brings in people from the greater Puget Sound area.

“It got big very fast,” said Sheila Kingsbury about the fair’s growth.

Kingsbury, who is chair for Bastyr’s department of botanical medicine and faculty adviser for the fair’s student committee, said the event was initially just an herb fair but expanded to include food and the school’s nutrition department by its fourth year.

Despite its growth and expansion, she said the fair has maintained its focus on everything herbal and nutritional related. Kingsbury said the message they want to get across is that the herbal and nutritional changes that are featured and discussed at the fair are things people can do for themselves to lead healthier lifestyles.

The theme for this year’s fair is “Plant as Partners: grow, adapt, transform.”

This year’s event, which will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, will feature about 70 tables with herbally or food-focused vendors as well as area nonprofits and student groups from Bastyr. According to the event’s page on the school’s website, there will also be educational speakers and workshops, cooking demonstrations from nutrition and botanical medicine experts, tours of the school’s medicinal herb garden and guided walks through the surrounding woods and a plant sale featuring medicinal and culinary plant starts from Bastyr’s organic garden. In addition, the fair will feature live music and entertainment as well as children’s activities, including face painting and games.

The fair will also have three keynote speakers: herbalist, author and ethnobotanist David Winston; author and gardener Mark Musick; and registered dietitian and nutritional consultant Vesanto Melina.

Kingsbury said one of the challenges in planning the event is filling the speaker spots, as everyone except the keynotes are volunteers.

“But somehow, we’ve done it for 19 years,” she said with a laugh.

Since it first started, Kingsbury said they have been able to expand to the Kenmore Park and Ride, 7346 N.E. Bothell Way, allowing people to attend for free as they charge $5 for people to park on campus. From the park and ride, people can take the free Bastyr shuttle to the fair, which runs every 30 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

No event parking is permitted at St. Edward State Park.

While the fair has grown significantly throughout the years — bringing an average of 3,000-4,000 people each year or as many as 5,000 one year — Kingsbury said most of their sponsors, vendors and attendees are still from the greater King County and Seattle area.

“It’s still very local,” she said. “It has definitely become very community-oriented.”

Another part of that local feel of the fair is the raffle drawing, which features prizes donated by event vendors. Kingsbury said this is her favorite part of the event, as they have students dressed as fairies who walk around the event selling the raffle tickets.

“It’s just so cute,” she said.

The only problem that has risen from that has been children at the fair who have asked for their own set of wings. Kingsbury said they still haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet.

For Kingsbury, it is also fun to see Bastyr students come together for the event, and it makes her proud.

Anna Barry, vendor coordinator for the fair, is in her second year on the student committee planning the event. The fourth-year naturopathic medicine and herbalist student first became involved in planning the fair after Kingsbury approached her.

“It’s been fun,” Barry said about the process, though she added that it has definitely been chaotic.

Kingsbury said planning for the event typically begins in November, with them securing their keynote speakers by December. And come January, the committee is in full force.

Barry said the workload has not been too bad as there are several students involved in planning the fair and everyone has each others’ backs so no one gets too overwhelmed.

For Barry, the fair is an opportunity to show off the school. She said when she first attended the fair before she was a student at Bastyr, her favorite part was being able to tour the school’s gardens. Now, her favorite part is the community awareness that comes with the event.

Barry said the fair is a big event focused on creating a culture of food and medicine.

“Come eat delicious food, tour our gardens and listen to some pretty interesting and innovative talks,” she said.