By JESSE BURKHARDT
The celebration is on.
Despite some earlier uncertainty, the White Salmon Arts Council (WSAC) -- sponsor of the annual "Nights in White Salmon/Art & Wine Fusion" -- announced last week that the event will be coming again this July.
With contributions down due to the weakened economy and fewer volunteers lined up, it had appeared that the popular event would have to be canceled this year. But according to WSAC Vice President Lloyd DeKay, members of the Arts Council felt the Art & Wine Fusion was important to the community.
"The event has a track record and we didn't want to lose momentum," DeKay explained.
In fact, the struggling economy made Arts Council members even more determined to carry on with the show for what will be a fifth consecutive year.
"With the economy bringing people down, we needed something to bring people up again," DeKay said. "If there was any time the community really needed this event, it's now."
According to DeKay, the community has responded to the possible loss of the annual event.
"We have about 30 volunteers now, and about $5,000 in commitments of donations to make it work. That's enough to make it work, but we're hoping to get more funds to flesh it out."
Funding support has come from a variety of sources.
"Several of the high-tech firms have stepped up and been very generous, along with community organizations such as Rotary and the Lions Club," DeKay explained.
The event drew about 500 visitors last year, and provided a nice boost for local merchants and artists.
"People don't want to see this go away. It is very popular in the community," DeKay said. "This was a very important time to keep it going and bring that traffic through town. Our intent is to highlight Gorge artists, musicians, and wineries."
Some major changes are in the works for this year's Art & Wine Fusion, which will be on Saturday, July 18. Perhaps the biggest change is that the downtown stretch of State Route 141 is expected to be closed to automobile traffic for several hours to accommodate the festival.
"We're closing down Jewett Boulevard from Estes to Main," DeKay said. "It's all set, as far as we can tell. The mayor, the police chief, the Public Works Department, and the Washington Department of Transportation are on board. We believe we'll have approval for it."
The street would be closed from 3 p.m.-10 p.m. that Saturday, with traffic being rerouted around the downtown business district.
"We felt it was a real safety issue," DeKay said. "The primary thought was to close it down for safety, and then we can set up artists' booths in the street."
Arts Council members will be encouraged to set up tables to display and sell their wares.
"That's what we've been missing in the past, a chance for our artists to show their work," DeKay pointed out. "We haven't done booths before, and at a time like this, people really need exposure. There will be more visitors through town, and more interest. The economy may be bad, but we need events like this to help move things along."
White Salmon's Art & Wine Fusion is scheduled for the same weekend as the Trout Lake Arts Festival, and that is by design.
"People come in for that and can make a weekend out of it," DeKay said. "The Trout Lake event shuts down at 5 p.m. Saturday, and that's when our event begins."