History of Renton River Days
Each year Renton River Days welcomes 35,000 to 40,000 festival-goers who discover Renton’s amenities, enjoy lively entertainment, and participate in extraordinary events. This years festival promises to be better than ever.
Since 1939 Renton has been home to a variety of summer celebrations. In that year, Renton’s first summer festival, known as Frontier Days, opened to celebrate the cowboy and Wild West culture that was popular at the time. Renton became a tourist attraction with events like a beard growing contest, parade, cowboy movies at the local theaters and a competitive Rodeo featuring cowboys from all over the western United States and Canada. By the 1970s Frontier Days was renamed Western Days and was sponsored by Renton Western Wear. The new festival boasted a parade, sidewalk sale, and street dance. Other events also took place throughout the summer season, including the Mile Parade and activities at Longacres.
In 1985, Mayor Barbara Shinpoch proposed uniting the various summer activities into one community-wide festival. People who supported Renton’s businesses or activities were asked to volunteer their time and efforts to create a successful and coordinated summer festival.
In the summer of 1986, the first Renton River Days featured activities in Liberty Park, pony rides, food, music, a sidewalk sale and a kick-off banquet. Once it debuted, the festival continued to grow and evolve with the changes in the community. After a few years, Kids’ Day was added and quickly became a festival favorite. Eventually, other popular events like Art in the Park (now The Art Market), the Senior Day Picnic, Renton Annual Art Show, Sam Chastain Memorial Golf Tournament, Chalk Art Contest, and Rotary Club’s Rubber Ducky Derby were added. However, not all the additions to Renton River Days have stood the test of time. The festival once had a bike race and its own beauty competition that offered scholarship prizes.
After 30-plus years, Renton River Days has become a fixture in our community. Each year it brings together thousands of neighbors and friends for an incredible experience. Just as businesses supported Frontier Days in the 1930s, nearly 100 businesses contribute to the success of Renton River Days.
Renton River Days continues to be a family friendly event that grows and flourishes just like the City in which it is hosted.