Surely Goodness

If you’ve been to a major festival around here, you likely have George Sharp to thank for it

To thank him you wouldn’t need to give your right arm, but a kidney would sure help


Happy and exciting community events enrich our lives, whether we are young, old, or in between!

What we may not realize or even consider is how these events come about. They take creative minds, enthusiasm, volunteer hours, money, determination, coordination, inspiration, and individuals with the ability to inspire others! They foster a sense of community, and people look forward to them. They also provide economic growth, putting communities on the map!

Meet George Sharp

George Sharp is a behind-the-scenes player in this realm. Though he has worn many hats in his life, he is currently the Rural Program Manager for the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC). As part of this work, he leads the South Thurston Economic Development Initiative (STEDI) and its monthly meetings of leaders from Bucoda, Grand Mound, Rainier, Rochester, Tenino and Yelm.

George Sharp (center) was named Economic Development Advocate of the Year Washington Economic Development Association, 2019. Shown on the right side of this photo is Michael Cade, executive director of the Thurston Economic Development Council.
George Sharp (center) was named Economic Development Advocate of the Year Washington Economic Development Association, 2019. Shown on the right side …

 One man, two big awards

George was recognized in 2019 and as the Economic Development Advocate for the State of Washington by the Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA).

His involvement in the festivals and events industry went far. He was a founding member and past President of the Washington Festivals & Events Association (WFEA), contributed to the development of the first WFEA Chapter, co-created events such as the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest and the Bucoda Boo-Coda Spook-Tacular Haunted House and Festival, and served as President (2015) and Board Member of Capital Lakefair. Prior to joining the EDC, George was the executive director of what’s since become known as Experience Olympia & Beyond, the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau. While there, he envisioned and led the effort to bring visitor-funded, sustainable revenues to the organization.

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic were no match for George’s determination and resourcefulness. For example, he secured more than $100,000 in grants and sponsorships to ensure the survival of Capital Lakefair during its two-year shutdown.

George Sharp Hall of Fame collage, 2023.
George Sharp Hall of Fame collage, 2023.

Hall of famer

In October 2023, Sharp was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Washington Festivals & Events Association, an organization of which he is both a founder and past president. He joined a small and select group of individuals who have received this honor since its inception in 2001.

Who is George Sharp?

Sharp was born in Hermiston, Oregon and grew up in the Tri-Cities in eastern Washington. He graduated from Washington State University with a B.A. in Business Administration in 1996.

He told The JOLT that his personal mission statement is to make a difference in the lives of others.

George Sharp at Nisqually Valley BBQ Rally, 2021.
George Sharp at Nisqually Valley BBQ Rally, 2021.

It all began in 1989 when he volunteered as the very first Tase T. Lentil Mascot for the National Lentil Festival, which marked the festival’s inaugural year. Little did he know that this would be the starting point for a lifelong commitment to community and economic development through events.

The following year, George took on the role of Visitor and Convention Director for the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and simultaneously served as the Executive Director of the National Lentil Festival. His dedication knew no bounds, and he set out to recruit Festival Floats for the Lentil Festival's Grand Parade. To accomplish this, he built the Pullman Community Float and took it to more than 26 parades in its first year, eventually participating in over 100 parades during his tenure as director of the Lentil Festival. Among his favorite parades was the Seattle Seafair, where he made a chance encounter that would prove to be significant in his journey.

Beyond the Lentil Festival, he oversaw various events, including the Pullman 4th of July Celebration (where he made history by securing the first sponsorship of a Port-O-Potty in the Palouse Region in 1991), Mudwonderful Festival, Cabaret Gala and Auction, and the City of Pullman’s kickoff celebration to send the WSU Football Team to the Rose Bowl in 1997.

In 1999, George Sharp took his talents statewide when he became the Tourism Development Manager for the Washington State Tourism Office, then a part of the Washington State Community and Economic Development Department (now the Department of Commerce). During his tenure, he played a pivotal role in the creation of the Great Idea Grant Program, a program instrumental in launching the Washington Wine Country Campaign. George also lent his expertise to communities planning for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration, oversaw Washington Day at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, and supported the launch of the Washington State Quarter Celebration. His consultancy work extended to many communities, where he provided guidance on tourism development, including product development, marketing and public relations.

A formula for success

 Sharp’s Formula for Success is 3I+7P+CS+Q+A=S.  The three I’s stand for imagination, intuition and initiative, while the seven P’s stand for passion, personality, planning, partnerships, politics, perseverance and purpose. CS in the formula stands for common sense, Q for quality, A for attitude and S, of course, is for success. He mentions The Formula in his recent podcast. (The formula part starts at 43:34.)

Many other awards

Throughout his career, George has received numerous awards from Washington State Tourism (including the Georgie Award), the International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA), and WFEA for his outstanding marketing efforts. His community involvement has been equally celebrated; he was honored as Pullman Citizen of the Year, received the United Way of Pullman Red Feather Award, and earned a well-deserved place in the Pullman Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, George is an admitted festival fanatic. He attends more than 25 festivals and events each year, further cementing his status as a trusted and highly-rated speaker at WFEA Conferences.

Tenino City Councilmember Linda Gotovac with George Sharp in 2022.
Tenino City Councilmember Linda Gotovac with George Sharp in 2022.

 What kept George away from attending the Hall of Fame ceremony?

Throughout his life, George Sharp has helped and inspired so many and loves events. But why didn’t he attend his own? He did not attend the Hall of Fame award ceremony. Instead, he submitted a statement that began like this, “I’m truly honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Washington State Festival and Events Association. Although I couldn’t be there tonight due to a recent hospital stay, I’m grateful for the opportunity to accept this award through my dear friend, Robin Hailstone Kelley, who has been by my side for over 30 years…”

Fact is, George Sharp needs a new kidney

Kidney failure has led to dialysis, and George needs a donor. Have you ever thought about being a donor?

“Some have asked about the match process,” George explained. “You don't have to match me directly for me to benefit. They have what is called a Paired Living Kidney Program. This link explains the entire donor process and how to get screened to be a donor.

“I have been approved and placed on the National Kidney Transplant list. I have been encouraged by UW Medicine to share with friends and family that a living donor is much quicker and better,” he added.

Here are a couple more sources of information:

George Sharp with Bucoda mayor, Rob Gordon, 2023.
George Sharp with Bucoda mayor, Rob Gordon, 2023.

He Keeps Going

Though George spends three days per week in dialysis, he amazingly continues his work with all enthusiasm, working on 2024 events into 2025.

Want to lend a hand?  Find out how you can help with or participate in any of his projects. Some of the upcoming events include Tenino Oregon Trail Days, July 26-28; Rainier Bluegrass Festival, August 23-25; Grand Mound FunFest, September 28 and Boo-Coda Spook-Tacular, October 1-31.

Contact George at his office 360-464-6043 on by cell phone 360-878-3835, or by email.

Shirley Stirling, of Lacey, writes about good things people in Thurston County are doing. If you’d like to nominate someone to be profiled, contact her at or comment below.


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