Hey, Sammamish, Let’s Celebrate Our 20th Birthday

By Don Gerend


Don Gerend

Sammamish is the youngest city in Western Washington, just 20 years old next summer.

Only about a third of our current citizens were here for the City’s birth, beginning with a vote to incorporate in November 1998, followed by a tempestuous campaign by more than  40 candidates for the first city council.

In the Spring of 1999, the first council was sworn in and hired interim staff while gearing up for incorporation on August 31, 1999… and then setting up the structure of city government. The council appointed citizens to a Planning Advisory Board to recommend a Comprehensive Plan for the City while council and staff worked on the financial structure, the Municipal Code and service delivery programs.

Sammamish Day Celebrations

As a one year old, the City celebrated all that was accomplished in such a short time and decided to have an annual Sammamish Day birthday party each August. As part of the one-year celebration, there was a Sammamish Math Contest with a qualifying exam and a monitored final exam. It was clear from that experience that Sammamish citizens were well grounded in mathematical skills.

We have continued the annual Sammamish Day celebrations, which have been expanded to include the Sammamish Night festivity sponsored by the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce. This is a great opportunity for the adults to get together for wine tasting, food tasting and enjoying a beautiful summer evening on City Hall plaza with live entertainment and dancing.

Sammamish Deci-centennial

In 2009, North Bend was celebrating its centennial, while Sammamish was still a pre-teen. Not to be outdone by our dear friends at the foot of the Cascades, we decided to have a special celebration for our 10th birthday (which we called our deci-centennial). Here are some of the activities that were part of the Sammamish Deci-centennial;

  • Educated grade school students about the City of Sammamish. As Mayor, I visited most of the grade schools in Sammamish and met with third and fourth grade classes, answering questions about local government and seeking at least one youngster born on the day Sammamish incorporated (August 31, 1999). And, indeed, we found one fellow.
  • Parade. Our 10-year-old special citizen rode in a yellow corvette convertible (with the Mayor) in a parade from Mary Queen of Peace to City Hall. Yes, a short but sweet celebration parade.
  • Time Capsule: As part of the deci-centenial celebration, the City buried a time capsule (check for the plaque just south of the skateboard park). From the tour of the grade schools, a consensus was obtained that the time capsule should be opened on the City’s 50th birthday.
  • Video messages: During the summer, a video camera was set up at the farmers market each week. Citizens, especially young ones, were encouraged to record a video message to themselves 40 years into the future. These were transferred to a DVD and buried in the time capsule. The kids were encouraged not to say “hi, old geezer” to themselves because they might not consider themselves “old” at 50, plus-or-minus.
  • Essay contest: A City-wide essay contest with a topic, I believe, of visualizing Sammamish at age 50, resulted in winners (or rather, winning entries) being deposited in the time capsule, along with a letter to the Mayor in 2049.
  • Math contest: Another math contest, only this time, while still dealing with issues relative to the community, included a storm water problem which was best solved using integral calculus. That reduced the number of perfect scores on the preliminary contest but there were still many contestants for the final exam.

What many took from the special 10th birthday celebration is not only a celebration of the past, but a time to reflect about the future. Time capsules have more significance to those burying them than when they are dug up, in my opinion. Society is looking to the future and considering what is significant about our present state that might be of interest in the future when the time capsule is opened up. And thinking about that seemingly distant future should inspire us to work methodically (and sometimes with large steps) forward to create an even better community and society.

Sammamish 20th Birthday

Recently the Sammamish City Council discussed putting some $50,000 in the next budget for a special 20th birthday celebration. Ultimately the Council felt that 20 years wasn’t quite special enough and decided not to set aside any money, suggesting that we wait for our 25th birthday for a special celebration. I don’t disagree with having a special 25th celebration in 2024, but there is no reason that we can’t have a special 20th also – in fact we absolutely should.  And we can do that without having the City add the full $50,000 to the budget. Here are some suggestions for making our 20th birthday summer something special with minimal City cost and maximum community participation:

  • Essay contest: We can again have an essay contest with an opportunity for our citizens to write about Sammamish at age 50. This should be easier this time around; now we are only stretching 30 years into the future.
  • Invite citizens to list positive attributes of Sammamish and what makes Sammamish so special to all of us. This might include our “favorite places” in Sammamish and how we enjoy them.
  • Video messages; We could once again set up the video camera at the Farmers Market and record messages to ourselves 30 years into the future. Where to store them for 30 years? Somewhere in the cloud in the City archive perhaps?
  • Math contest:  Majority of the problems involve city issues, be it storm water calculations, travel time comparisons, density calculations, or aging in place in Sammamish.
  • Football throwing contest: Perhaps have age group contests plus an age handicap system allowing younger kids to compete against adults.
  • Brain Game: Teams could compete in a game show format similar to what has been used in Sammamish for holiday girls basketball/academic tournaments in our earlier years.
  • Field Day: In cooperation with the school districts or booster clubs, have athletic contests for various age groups, be it 50-yard dash, mile, shot put or whatever.
  • Guest speaker series: In cooperation with Central Washington University/Sammamish, bring in various futurists to discuss the future of technology, transportation, environment, society.

These are just a few possible activities to make our 20th something special. To make this happen, let’s hear from you. Any thoughts about ways to celebrate the 20th birthday of the great City of Sammamish and are you interested in being a part of a volunteer committee to make it happen?

About the author: Don Gerend has a degree in Applied Math and Engineering Physics as well as a Master’s in Physics from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington. He was a rocket scientist, a college professor of physics and astronomy, a securities principal, a commercial real estate broker and syndicator, a small business owner and was on the Sammamish City Council from incorporation in 1999 through 2017. Don and his wife Susan moved to Pine Lake in 1979, raised their family here, and look forward to many more years of retired enjoyment with their many old and new friends in our ever-evolving great City of Sammamish.

5 thoughts on “Hey, Sammamish, Let’s Celebrate Our 20th Birthday

  1. Is there an existing committee already in charge of planning a twentieth celebration that we could reach out to with ideas?

    • Cece, there is no existing committee, but you can reach out to me (don@gerend.com) with ideas and volunteer, or to the City Council.

  2. Excellent artical. Exactly, I believe, what the council was looking for. It was not that I, personally, did not want to celebrate, I did not want to spend 50k on a birthday party especially when the 25th is just around the corner.
    Community activities such as you suggested do not require a lot of money and are so good for the sole of the community. Thank you for writing Don!

  3. Oh, I like the idea of math contests. Here’s a couple. All in fun, of course 🙂

    1. The Euler Gridlock Graph Analysis Concurrency Contest. Starting from arbitrary points in the city, traverse each of the 7 busiest intersections to reach an imaginary Ace Hardware Store located smack dab in the heart of the shiny new Town Center. Calculate the maximum number of concurrent trips that could be initiated until nobody can get anywhere at all. For extra credit, allocate a certain percentage of the trips to the pool.

    2. The Developer Escape Velocity Contest. Assign a negative value to each tree removed, and a positive value to each 6,000 square foot parcel. Calculate how many parcels could be developed minus the fee (technically, the “fine”) for each tree removed in order to achieve filthy richness. The richest player at the end WINS (and gets to escape to Bainbridge Island).

    • Dear Otto, humorous but disappointing. Let’s get the discussion to how we can celebrate the 20th birthday of this great place to live, and how to make it even a better place. I would welcome sitting down with you and having a conversation about Sammamish, past, present and future.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s