Seattle, WA

City awards grant to PNA to re-create holiday lighting in Phinneywood

Chris Maykut

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Armatures loaned out by the Zoo in 2020 to local businesses to help make up for the retirement of the PNA lights.Courtesy of the Woodland Park Zoo

If you’ve lived in the Phinneywood neighborhood for a while, you might have come to know and love the quirky and beloved tradition that a handful of dedicated community members created almost 10 years ago–the Holiday Monkeys. You also likely know that the Phinney Neighborhood Association made the hard decision to retire the monkeys last year because of targeted racial attacks on their staff, and as part of their overall anti-racism work. While this decision has not been a popular one, it is something the PNA Board felt was the right thing to do.

Since the decision to retire the monkeys was finalized, hundreds of residents and businesses have reached out to express their thoughts and ask the PNA to reconsider or create something new. In 2020, the PNA did not put out any holiday lights, though they did partner with the Zoo to get some of their WildLights armatures out to local businesses. In a year that the community could really have used a festive and connecting holiday tradition, the PNA was not able to provide this for Phinneywood.  

However, much like the light we seem to be spotting at the end of the pandemic tunnel, there is new hope on the horizon for our sorely missed tradition. The PNA Business Group and PNA Community Engagement and Development Director Leslie Hamilton successfully gained a Neighborhood Matching Grant from the City to create a new Holiday Lighting tradition for the neighborhood.

Overall, the City of Seattle has awarded $826,841 to support 20 community-initiated projects through Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Neighborhood Matching Fund. Twenty community groups received awards ranging from $8,550 to $50,000 and have pledged $1,725,350 to match their award through local cash donations, volunteer hours, donated materials, and in-kind professional services.

There is much work to do to get there, including an upcoming fundraising drive, but the PNA is working hard to have 200 new LED holiday animals ready for this season. They are looking forward to having our community participate in selecting the animals that will be displayed as part of our new holiday tradition. Keep an eye out for more details on opportunities to vote for your favorite options.

The Holiday Lighting Committe, with representatives from the PNA, the Zoo, local businesses, and the community, was convened in January to chart the course for this project. Through a series of meetings, the committee come up with the following framework, which eventually became the basis for the Matching Grant. 

  • Our Mission is to create a new, quirky, secular, business district-focused lighting tradition in partnership with the Woodland Park Zoo that represents PhinneyWood.
  • Our Goal is to not “re-create the wheel, but to change the tire” by making a series of lighted animals that look and feel like the monkeys did so there is a clear connection to that tradition but not to the controversy that led to their retirement. 
  • The three aspects that are most important in deciding the new animals are Pacific Northwest, Cool, and Easily Identifiable.

The PNA is very grateful to the City of Seattle for entrusting our community with these funds to help recreate a beloved neighborhood tradition.

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Seattle, WA
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