By JESSE BURKHARDT
Stand by for another community celebration! The annual White Salmon Spring Festival will open this Friday at 2 p.m., and continue through Sunday afternoon. Most activities are centered around Rheingarten Park.
For more than three decades, this festival -- a signature White Salmon event -- has attracted good crowds, even when the weather has not cooperated.
This year, organizers have checked the long-range forecast, and are optimistic the weather will provide a lift to the turnout.
"It looks like it's going to be great -- 80 degrees on Friday, and 82 on Saturday," said Amanda McDonald, chair of the Spring Festival Committee. "As long as the weatherman is right, we're doing good."
The weekend festival kicks off on Friday at about 2 p.m. when the concession booths open. At 5 p.m. that day, the Chiqway Marimba band will perform in the park.
The "Grand Parade" is one of the focal points of the Spring Festival. The parade will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Larry and Janet McCutcheon are this year's Grand Marshals, and Hugh Whitson will emcee the parade, which runs through downtown White Salmon on Jewett Boulevard.
The Columbia High School Marching Band and the Henkle Middle School Marching Band will both be featured in the parade, as well as the CHS cheerleaders.
Other main events: The Firemen's Pancake Breakfast will be at the White Salmon Fire Hall starting at 6 a.m. on Saturday, and the "famous bratwurst" will be for sale throughout the weekend.
On Sunday morning, there will be a "Church in the Park" service led by Pinecrest Nazarene. It starts at 10:30.
One of the new features this year is a "Doubles Tennis Tournament," which will take place at the White Salmon tennis courts after the Saturday parade ends. Columbia High School tennis coach Rae Meaney is coordinating that fun activity.
In other "physical" activities, Northside Community Education & Recreation (NCER) has organized a 3-on-3 Basketball Shootout. This event will start at noon on Saturday, at the old tennis courts. On Sunday, NCER is also sponsoring an 8K run and a 5K walk. Registration will be at 8 a.m. Sunday, at the White Salmon park gazebo.
The musical offerings will continue to focus on local talent, including the White Salmon Jazz Band, the Columbia High School Jazz Band, Buck Smith & The Connollys, the Sweet Adelines, Zac Grooms & Unwound, Bingen's own Joanie's Jazz Band, and Rick Hulett & Kerry Williams from Hood River.
However, there will be some other voices taking the stage, such as Portland's Terry Robb, a blues performer.
"We're trying to do things a little bit differently, bring in a different flavor; bringing in a different feel or sound," McDonald explained.
Other highlights include the return of Richie the Reptile Man, who will bring his exotic animals to the park stage on Saturday at 3 p.m.
At 7 p.m. that same day, the Columbia Gorge Belly Dancers will perform.
The popular youth talent show will be held on the main stage from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. on Friday. The talent show is sponsored by McCoy-Holliston Insurance.
Also new this year will be a "Smoke Free Kid Zone," sponsored by the Klickitat County Health Department, the festival's primary sponsor this year. Within the designated "smoke-free" area will be pony rides, a mini Ferris Wheel for the youngsters, and a swing ride.
Following the activities at Rheingarten Park, there will be the second annual "Spring Fest Concert" at the Mount Adams Grange Hall on Main Street in White Salmon. In this event, fiddlers will entertain with "Celtic old-time gospel music."
The White Salmon Spring Festival took root in 1977 when it was known as the "Festival of the Bells." Over the years, the celebration has gone through a number of transformations -- first into May Fest, and finally into its current incarnation as the Spring Festival.
"I look at the festival as a place we call home," McDonald said. "Everybody is getting together and enjoying good food and good entertainment."