Petition launched to help save Club Tolt event venue

By Benjamin Floyd

For the Valley Record

Music event producer Morgan Henley is seeking signatures on his online petition to save “Club Tolt,” the long-held family property that has served as gathering place and event venue since 1982.

Beginning with Henley’s father’s generation, the large plot along the Tolt River has long been at the center of the creative culture of the Snoqualmie Valley, hosting music festivals, volleyball tournaments, weddings, and many more homegrown events. The artwork and memorabilia alone on the property makes it a sort of historical site. Across the rafters of the hand-built mainstage, you can find Tolt Demons basketball jerseys, license plates from all over the world, and a sign reading “CarnaVall Reporter,” a now-extinct newspaper for the lower Valley.

Formed in 2006, the BrodieNation Music Festival is now the largest event of the year at the Club Tolt property, with an average sale of 350 tickets and an estimated 500 attendants including the artists and their guests. The festival is unlike any other in the state, an event which Henley calls “a musician’s festival” dedicated to uplifting local PNW music talent. Every year, the artists camp on the property with the attendees and connect with the tens of other artists scheduled for the 4-day event. Notable acts have included Ayron Jones, Steel Beans, Macklemore and Austin Jenckes.

“Over 1,000 musicians have played here over the 42 years. They all look forward to this for months. What we are doing here is not what you really see in the music industry anymore. The musicians are part of the event, they are here, mingling, watching the other acts, getting on stage and making something new,” he said.

Henley’s property was brought under the view of King County when an anonymous complaint was filed in relation to the number of cars on the road during the gatherings. While the parking during these events is legal, Henley shared that parking has been the largest difficulty through the past 42 years, given that the Tolt River Road which it resides on is a winding 3-mile stretch of blind corners and rolling hills— a challenging stretch even by the standards of a local. In recognition of this, Henley has gone above and beyond to relieve the issue, communicating with his neighbors and seeking their support.

“Two of them down the road now let us park cars on their property, and we have hired a shuttle company to shuttle people here. We have camping parking on one property, and day parking on another. It’s organized, there is a lot of thought put behind it. Much love to my neighbor’s who see the need and help me fulfill it,” Henley said.

Henley’s communication with his neighbors is more kindness in a long-standing relationship than it is a business move. He noted his connection to one family in particular: “We have an individual down the road who has special needs. I’ve grown up with him my whole life, we are the same age, we graduated the same year, he is special to me, you know? His family is incredible, and we have a good friendship, and I know the traffic on the road is a concern with them, so I have worked with them throughout the years, in constant contact during all of the events, making sure cars are as far off the road if an emergency vehicle is needed.”

The concern of the anonymous complaint, while baseless, did lead the King County to raise questions with Henley about permitting. Without a special event permit, Henley is only allowed to host two days of events a year. Yet, since July 1982, the property has hosted more than two days of events a year consistently, with the sole exception being the 2020 pandemic.

After conversations with the county, the most appropriate option was to seek a director’s decision, or a “grandfather clause,” requiring Henley to prove beyond reasonable doubt that that the property has hosted events since before 1991, the year the codes went into force. Henley has since been compiling evidence from his father’s collection of memories — postcard mailing lists, photographs, statements — to provide to the county. Henley has also started a petition titled “Save Club Tolt.” At the time of writing, the petition has collected 2,382 signatures, and numerous comments from community members discussing the importance of the property.

Signee of the petition Kenneth VanDeSteeg commented: “Henley’s is a staple, not just to the town, but to the entire lower Snoqualmie Valley. This is a place that you can go to enjoy a concert one night and a relaxing day of volleyball and socializing the next. I spent countless weekends at the property. Everyone was always welcome as long as you were respectful, and it is a place you can go and connect with people you have known for years or meet someone new. There are thousands of people who have made lifelong memories at Henley’s, and thousands more will do the same! I love that place!”

Henley noted that his communication with the county has been cordial and non-threatening, but he still wishes to spread awareness of his current situation in the interest of the community.