New Crawfish Fest organizer Mike Higgins talks whats to come

The Tualatin Crawfish Festival is getting rebranded by a Sherwood native — who also happens to be the former general manager of the Portland Beavers.

Mike Higgins’ impressive resume includes working on PGE Park’s $38.5 million renovation more than a decade ago. Indeed, he has big plans for this year’s Crawfish Festival: It will be bigger, longer and boozier — but not necessarily a huge attraction for out-of-towners.

“Our vision is that the festival becomes Tualatin’s block party, for lack of a better term,” Higgins said. “We want every person that lives in Tualatin to come to the festival.”

Higgins acknowledges that discussion about the festival’s future has often touched on making the 64-year tradition a regional attraction.

Higgins believes he can keep the festival fresh and local.

“We want to provide an opportunity for neighbors to network, to see and be seen,” he said. “We don’t want to really reach out and become this destination festival. We just don’t have the infrastructure to handle that.”

Higgins believes the key isn’t crowd quantity, but the quality of the event itself.

“With festivals like these, it’s hard to inject new energy into them from time to time,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a fresh look. I hope that’s what we’ll bring to it.”

“If we achieve that goal, we’ll be a much bigger, successful festival,” he added.

Last summer, the Chamber of Commerce announced it would no longer manage the festival, as it had for 25 years. Two parties submitted proposals for taking over the Crawfish Festival: Class Act Event Coordinators, Inc., which had for several years provided logistical support for festival operations, and Higgins’ company, the recently rebranded Social Media Northwest. Class Act’s vision was to keep the festival in familiar form, while Social Media Northwest sought to make sweeping changes to the yearly event, and asked the city to contribute $40,000 over the five-year contract period.

“Five years from now, costs aren’t going to be the same,” Higgins explained.

The city ultimately opted for an overhaul of the festival, which, Higgins explains, will include adding Sunday events, a wider range of food offerings, a more exciting entertainment lineup — and an earlier date for the festival.

By removing the festival from direct competition with popular Portland event Bite of Oregon, Higgins believes he can get not only a larger crowd, but a better selection of vendors.

“It was becoming hard to attract food vendors for a one-day sales opportunity,” Higgins said of the long-held Crawfish Festival format. “This gives them double the opportunity.”

Vendors will be asked to submit a menu ahead of time to avoid too many duplicate offerings and will be asked to include at least one Cajun-inspired item.

Higgins also seeks to inject some good libations into the mix, with an event he calls Corks and Kegs — a tasting area that will serve as a celebration of Oregon’s microbrewery and winery culture.

Notably absent from the Crawfish Festival lineup will be the yearly parade, which had seen lagging participation. Higgins would also like to get rid of admission charges altogether.

“Because the festival’s been so small, the admission charge has been a vital part of making it operate,” he explained, adding that he hopes to eliminate that budget consideration with what he calls “the reinvigorated festival.”

But there are certain aspects of last year’s spectacle he’d like to keep intact, with some revision. Last year, the city footed the $10,000 bill for fireworks to mark Tualatin’s Centennial anniversary. Higgins plans to keep that line item in the budget — sort of.

“(The fireworks show) was kind of problematic and costly, on the infrastructure side, what with engaging the fire department,” Higgins said, “so we settled on using the funds that were used to secure some kind of headline entertainment for Saturday night.”

He won’t name names — yet.

“A regional band is a possibility,” he said.


“It’s a tricky question,” he demurred. “I promise whatever we settle on will be amazing and exciting.”

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