This weekend, Pioneer Park is filled with vendors and entertainment for the sixth annual Walla Walla Spring Fling. Starting on Friday and concluding on Sunday at 4 p.m., the event spans three days of activities ranging from karaoke contests to a car show known as the Show and Shine.

Liz Pierce, a resident of Walla Walla, started the Spring Fling after the vendors and entertainment components were cut from the Walla Walla Balloon Stampede.

“We heard that there were still going to be balloons but there would be no vendors, no car show, no entertainment, no nothing. I had specifically worked with that part and so, I said, ‘yes, I can do that.’ That’s what I did. I decided to do this and in our first year, we had 45 vendors, now we have 100.”

The event has a volunteer crew of five people including Pierce. They passed out 700 fliers downtown, as well as hiding rocks throughout the community to advertise this year’s event.

“I paint rocks for every single one of these vendors,” Pierce said. “It has their business name and it has, on the back, a little sticker that say, ‘take this to the Spring Fling, take it to this vendor, and they’ll give you a prize for it.’ So, little rocks that have painted fingernails or jewelry or makeup. I take them all over town — one volunteer and I took all 92 rocks over town and hid them. People find them and they post them, and the vendors get excited.”

Vendor Alisha Buttice was ecstatic at the thought of receiving her rock.

“It’s just super fun,” Buttice said. “We all so look forward to getting our rocks. It’s like, ‘did you get your rock yet?’ I haven’t gotten my rock yet. I know what it looks like. We get to keep our rocks as vendors and choose what to do with them. Do we want to keep them and display them? Do we want to hide them? That, the rock thing, just gives it that extra special thing — no other event does that.”

Buttice has been coming to the Spring Fling for the last six years. She adores the culture and friendship of her fellow vendors. As a mother of three, the event offers activities for everyone, as well as time for her to talk with other adults.

“I’m a home-based business, but events are where I meet people and talk,” Buttice said. “I’m a stay-at-home mom outside of this so this is my outlet to talk to adults and more about than, ‘I’m hungry.’ It’s awesome; I love and it’s my getting-out time.”

She also emphasized the amount of support that all the vendors receive from Pierce and her fellow volunteers.

“They’re constantly coming through,” Buttice said. “There’s security, and one nice thing they did is — we really wanted coffee because we’re stuck here all day and can’t leave — and this year they got us a coffee cart. They worked so hard to find a coffee cart so we could have coffee and be energized.”

This year’s Spring Fling benefits the Julianna Sayler Foundation, “a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness, supporting families, and empowering researchers to cure diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.” It is named for a child who attended Spring Fling in 2017.

“Julianna Sayler was a little girl that was 8 years old,” Pierce said. “At 7, she was diagnosed with DIPG. Julianna was seven and she called it, ‘the bump.’ She had a brain tumor and she was fighting the bump. She came here two years ago, and she rode around in my cart with me. She passed away three months after this event. That little girl had such spirit. She was just amazing … She couldn’t really walk or talk by the end, and yet she never quit believing. This is for her foundation this year.”

Alasdair Padman can be reached at alasdairpadman@wwub.com.