The sixth annual Art & Wine Fusion in White Salmon will be back in about a month, and big changes are in the works.
Sponsored by the White Salmon Arts Council (WSAC), the festival is coming back with several major changes.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this year's festival and the 2009 event is the timing of the event. Instead of being held on the third Saturday in July, this year it will be on the second Saturday -- July 10.
"We moved the date," explained WSAC President Lloyd DeKay. "Traditionally, it was the third Saturday. We moved it to the second Saturday specifically to avoid conflict with the Trout Lake Art Festival. We found that people would spend the day at Trout Lake and were tired after that and didn't want to do something else."
DeKay pointed out that another advantage of the new scheduling is that it will bring people to the community two weekends in a row.
"Getting people out to the Gorge is a good thing," DeKay said. "So there are good reasons for making the change."
The time has changed as well. Rather than starting at 3 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m., as was the case last year, this year's event will kick off at noon and go until 8 p.m.
The closure of Jewett Boulevard will start at 10 a.m. and continue through 10 p.m. to allow artists time to set up and tear down their booths on the street.
"Last year, everybody was tearing down in the dark, and that was a mess. It was chaotic. We want people to be able to take their booths down while there is still light in the sky," DeKay explained.
The art booths will be back this year, and DeKay said the focus will continue to be on high quality, locally-made, and creative goods.
"The Arts Council will approve those who apply," DeKay said. "We want art-oriented items. We're trying to keep this away from being a carnival atmosphere. We're pairing art and wine. We have a really good wine industry in the region, and the arts community is very vibrant here."
In another significant change, a 35-mile bicycle race, which will be called the "King Salmon Road Race," will start at 2 p.m. The race will begin at the bottom of Dock Grade Road, go up Dock Grade and over Strawberry Mountain to the top of Snowden Road and then back to downtown White Salmon. The finish line will be in front of Everybody's Brewing.
Finishers in the various racing categories will win cash prizes and local goods.
Also new this year will be a "salmon cook-off," in which professional chefs and caterers will cook salmon on outdoor grills and then have their offerings judged by a team of judges.
Finally, there will be a bicycle parade by kids in the community. Youngsters are invited to decorate their bikes and ride through downtown at noon to formally open the event.
Kayaks on wheels will be back this year, as will entertainment by several different bands. The live music will be in front of the White Salmon Boat Works shop in the 200 block of E. Jewett.
According to DeKay, there may also be a central location to sample wines.
"Depending on how many wineries get involved, we may set up a wine tent in the WorkSource parking lot," DeKay said. "And Everybody's will set up a beer garden in front of their tavern."
Young people will be entertained with a "chalk garden" in front of the old Creamery building. Local artist Janet Essley will work with the kids to keep them focused.
Essley also plans to create a mural of salmon along the slatted fence on either side of Artisan's Jewelry. The mural is expected to be completed in June, and will remain in place permanently.
The Art & Wine Fusion is a free event, but for those who want to sample wines or foods, tickets will be sold in local shops for $12.50 in advance. Tickets can also be purchased during the event, for $15.
As the word spreads about the unique event in White Salmon, DeKay said he anticipates even more people this year.
"Last year we had about 600 paying, so we probably had about 800 total," he said. "With the extra things going on, 1,000 people may be a low estimate for this year."
Yet with the increased visibility and success of the event, DeKay pointed out that the need for volunteers is likely to be even greater this year.
"We need to have the community's help," DeKay said. "We need volunteers to come in. If we don't get volunteers, it will really be a strain. A few people trying to do everything doesn't work out. We're probably looking at needing close to 100 people for the stations we need to set up."
DeKay said those interested in volunteering can call him at (509) 637-2737, or drop in to see Celynn VanDeventer at Postal Connections, 176 E. Jewett, in downtown White Salmon.
DeKay added that he is enthusiastic about the many changes set for this year's event.
"We want to keep improving the festival, making it better and more popular, until it becomes an iconic festival in the Gorge that people come from around the country for," he said.