For many in the food and drink industry, Feast is the highlight of the year. The food and drink festival spans four days across town with major events, smaller tastings, classes, dinners, and talks drawing in chefs and makers from across the country as well as thousands of visitors. But given the current pandemic, the fundraiser won’t be happening in 2020, at least not in any way similar to its normal shape. “Back in March it was pretty clear that Feast as we know it wouldn’t be a possibility,” says co-founder Mike Thelin. “We were holding out hope that September would come and something would happen that would allow us to do something on a small scale and give back to restaurants in town. But the governor’s announcement on Friday... was the closure.”
Feast’s announcement was first made on Instagram, with a lengthy caption explaining the situation and the impossibility of hosting a 20,000 person event in 2020. “Feast Portland as we’ve known it will not happen this September,” the post reads. However, it goes on to say that the festival isn’t completely out this year. For Thelin and the rest of the team, it’s not clear what that will look like, but he knows what it will be for: “Now, more than ever, it’s a real opportunity for all of us to hunker down and put our support behind the things we love and care about,” says Thelin. “Anything we would do would take into account our entire community.”
The festival was founded by Carrie Welch and Mike Thelin in 2012, with the goal of celebrating the hospitality industry while raising money to help end hunger in Oregon — in the past eight years, the festival has grown and changed, adding events and classes, bringing in more chefs from around the country, and, according to Thelin, raising about $550,000 for Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and Urban Gleaners.
While the party itself won’t be happening this year, Thelin notes that its spirit lives on in the solidarity and community he’s witnessed during this pandemic. “The spirit of Feast is alive,” he says. “COVID can kill a festival for 2020, but it can’t kill the spirit of this community.”