History Behind the Bite of Seattle®!

IT ALL BEGAN BACK IN 1982...

Al Silverman & his wife Iona

Al Silverman & his wife Iona

when a local restaurateur was facing challenging times during the recession and believed that instead of waiting for the public to come to his restaurant, the local restaurants in Seattle should bring the food to the people. 

Festivals Inc. founder and creator of the Bite of Seattle®, Alan Silverman, successfully gathered together a group of the most prominent chefs and restaurateurs in the city to launch what is still today the Northwest’s Premier Food Festival and convinced them that Green Lake was the venue for what he then called “Camelot in the Park.”   

Al, daughter Jody & Al's wife Iona - 1987

Al, daughter Jody & Al's wife Iona - 1987

 

Silverman was born and raised in New York and then married and moved to Los Angeles where he opened two very prominent New York Style Delicatessens, catering to Hollywood celebrities in the early 50’s. One of which is The Nosh Box, which still sits off Sunset Blvd and remains a successful deli today.  Silverman moved his family to Seattle in 1972 when he was hired by The Bon Marché to manage and revamp the companies restaurants and bakeries.

The Bite of Seattle® at Green Lake - 1983

The Bite of Seattle® at Green Lake - 1983

Alan’s creative entrepreneurial spirit came to life In 1975 when he opened Barnaby’s in Bellevue, where he became more than a restaurateur. Barnaby’s was headquarters for the first Seahawk football draft, an annual lingerie fashion show on Valentine’s Day, and a traditional Dickens Dinner Theater presented Oliver Twist, courtesy of Issaquah Theater, which sold out annually. 

Seattle PI - 1983

Seattle PI - 1983

An estimated 75,000 people attended the first Bite and sampled culinary creations from 25 restaurants. Some long-time residents of Seattle may recall the days when popular radio and television sportscaster, Wayne Cody broadcasted all hours of the Bite as restaurants personally delivered plates of food to his booth -- or when thousands of Seattleites roller skated around the lake in between "bites". Silverman had a creative grounds maintenance plan back in 1982 - he took the microphone on the one main entertainment stage and asked those attending to grab a plastic garbage can liner and help pick up trash (it was an amazing sight to see as thousands of local residents became outstanding stewards willingly.)

Al & his daughter Jody - 2011

Al & his daughter Jody - 2011

As the Bite grew Silverman lived by his conviction that “the food and beverage industry is like fashion – it changes constantly – and my goal is to ensure we present fresh, new ideas every year.”  He believed that “by combining great food with entertainment in a beautiful park setting you can create the ultimate summer picnic experience.”

This general philosophy was carried forward by Silverman’s daughter, Jody May; the current President of Festivals Inc. who started out in 1982 as the Grounds Maintenance Supervisor.  Ms. May prides herself on pushing 20 yard dumpsters in and out of the 1982 Bite at Green Lake and roaming the park picking up trash.  Like her father, May says, “We must keep that Disneyland Philosophy where our event venue is clean and people enjoy being there.”

Al & Chef Tom Douglas - 2012

Al & Chef Tom Douglas - 2012

The Bite now attracts 400,000 people in three days and hosts over 60 restaurants, plus 5 entertainment stages, live cooking demonstrations, a local craft beer & cider tasting, a fundraiser for Food Lifeline, and many other venues.

The Bite - 2010

The Bite - 2010


 

As the Bite grew to national acclaim, its founding company, Festivals Inc. also branched out creating, managing or consulting over 30 events regionally. Many events were trend-setters of their time such as the Great Northwest Microbrewery Invitational or Coffee Fest (a first in their category back in 1990). Also, local events that needed to be redesigned and made more profitable again such as the Seafair Hydroplane Races back in 1988.

Brett Gorrell, VP of Sponsorship & Marketing, at Oktoberfest Northwest

Brett Gorrell, VP of Sponsorship & Marketing, at Oktoberfest Northwest

When Mr. Silverman looked to retirement and Brett Gorrell came on board, a renewed energy to grow the business and take on new projects launched the company forward in many ways. Mr. Gorrell, who has been with the company for 16 years, has personally taken sponsorship to a new level for the company which in turn has allowed for growth and new exciting elements to be infused into each event. With rising costs to produce such large scale events, the increased sponsorship revenue has allowed the Bite of Seattle® and Taste of Tacoma® to remain free to attend. Brett's ability to integrate and understand how to analyze sponsorship, generate the "win" for corporations large and small, and a tenacious approach to local and national markets has put him at the top of his game in a very competitive environment.

Festivals Inc. staff - 2017

Festivals Inc. staff - 2017

With a current full-time staff of six and a network of experienced contractors that spans the region, Festivals Inc. has had a hand in many of the major events in the Seattle area and continues to play a valuable role in shaping Washington State's festival and event landscape.

 

Happy eating!