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'Warms my heart': Spokane's Ramen Fest sells out in two hours, raises money for new roof

With hard work, lots of planning and support from the community, the Temple held their 31st Fest.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — Customers in the Perry District got a warm meal and could help a great cause. The Spokane Buddhist Temple didn't think they could have their annual Ramen Fest due to the pandemic, but they were able to adapt to have their event and keep people safe.

The festival typically brings hundreds of people to the Spokane Buddhist Temple, who open their doors as a pop-up restaurant. However, navigating around the coronavirus was a daunting task.

"We had decided we weren't going to do our Ramen Fest," Temple Reverend Melissa Opel said. "I think overall the pandemic's been confusing, just because of everything changing constantly."

"As Buddhists, were okay with that, we're very used to that," Opel added with a laugh.

The pandemic provided a variety of challenges for Opel. At one point, they decided to cancel the event because they were not sure how they could have their restaurant and keep people safe. 

Then their roof starting getting leaks. The repairs were expensive, and the temple was already worried about surviving the pandemic. 

"It was like, 'Can we do this, can we do this safely for, you know, our volunteers and for the community," Opel wondered. "Can we provide this thing that we really love doing?'" 

To help afford the building costs, the ramen fundraiser was back on. But this time, the ramen was to-go.

Credit: Morgan Trau
Customers on sidewalk waiting for ramen

No longer inside with waitstaff, the event took place on the sidewalk.

"It feels nerve racking," Opel said. "This is unknown to know if the community was wanting this or not."

And they did. They did not have two minutes without a customer all day. They even sold out about two hours after they opened. They were prepared for 500 meals. 

One of their worries was people being upset with the new takeout process, according to Opel, but customers showed that they understood.

"Obviously it is a bit different this year with COVID, but it's still cool and perfect weather for Ramen," Josh Miller, a fellow community member said. "I know that the money goes  to a good cause here, so that's another great reason to come out and get some good food for a good cause."

The Fest's success showed the community coming together to support the Temple. Even after the food was sold out, people stopped by to donate.

They are about a third of the way to their roof, according to Opel. 

"It just kind of warms my heart to see people here and for a lot of different reasons," Opel said. "It is not just to see people getting the ramen and contributing to the fundraiser, but just to see the community."