This year's Huckleberry Festival theme is "Eat, drink, and be berry." The festival kicks off this Friday, Sept. 9, at 6 p.m., when the vendors' booths in Bingen's Daubenspeck Park open for business.
The traditional focal points of the annual festival, which is now in its 44th year, will be back again this year, with Saturday's huckleberry pancake breakfast at the White Salmon Fire Station on NE Church Street in White Salmon. In addition to paying for a hearty meal, proceeds from the pancake breakfast will go to help buy vital firefighting equipment. The breakfast starts at 6 a.m. and continues until 10 a.m.
The big downtown parade gets rolling through Bingen's business district (State Route 14) at 11 a.m. Saturday. The parade will feature old and classic cars, motorcycles, walkers, horses, firefighting rigs, and a variety of fun and clever floats.
The parade is followed by the opening ceremony at the gazebo.
The grand marshals of this year's festival are the Stevenson brothers -- Wally, Rees, and the late Bruce Stevenson -- along with their wives, Priscilla, Eloise, and Mary, respectively.
Sally Tallman, co-chair of the Huckleberry Festival committee, said that as far as she can recall, this is the first time the Stevensons have been honored as grand marshals.
"One thing special this year, we do have the Stevensons involved as our grand marshals. After all these years, it will be nice to recognize them for all their contributions to the area," Tallman said. "As far as I know, it's the first time they've been asked. The Huckleberry Festival Committee is honored to have them."
The Stevensons will ride in a 1928 Model T in the downtown parade.
Other Huckleberry Festival standards include the wonderful huckleberry pies, made from huckleberries picked on Mount Adams. The pies, baked by Mike Walsh, will be sold by the slice or whole. Don't miss out, as a slice of huckleberry pie (or huckleberry pancakes at the fire station) is the essence of what the festival is all about.
Walsh is a resident of The Dalles. He works as a pastry chef for Skamania Lodge. According to Tallman, Walsh baked 406 huckleberry pies for the festival last year, and this year he may have about 450 ready to go.
"It all depends on how the berries last," explained Tallman, who is in her third year as co-chair of the Huckleberry Festival Committee.
Tallman added that the committee members are grateful for the support of Skamania Lodge.
"They have always been good at giving him time off to bake the pies, which is really nice. We have to thank them for that," she said.
The bratwurst stand is also likely to be popular this weekend. The brats are made specifically for the Huckleberry Festival by the Edelweiss Sausage Co. of Portland.
Other highlights include the beverage garden, which will feature Northwest beers from the Full Sail Brewery in Hood River; the Deschutes Brewery of Bend, Ore.; the Walking Man Brewery of Stevenson; and Widmer Brewery of Portland.
On stage will be many entertaining musical acts, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday with the White Salmon Jazz Band and wrapping up Sunday at 3 p.m. with Buck Smith and the Connolly Brothers, with much more in between. Other stage acts will include belly dancers (the Desert Harem Dancers, who will do their thing starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday; Richard the Reptile Man, who will be showing off exotic snakes (Saturday at 2 p.m.); and Gary Muma of Northwest Tae Kwon Do, a black belt master whose team will show fighting stances, self-defense moves, and board and brick breaking (Saturday at 3 p.m.).
On Sunday at 10 a.m., there will be an hour-long Sunday Mass, a service put on by the Evangelical Pastors Association and the Mid-Columbia Ministries.
Tallman said organizers of the weekend event were optimistic that this year's festival will be a good one.
"We're hoping for a better turnout, but with the economy and disasters going on, we don't know," Tallman said. "We try to keep it simple, fun, and family-oriented; hope for good weather and hope everyone has an enjoyable time."