By JESSE BURKHARDT
The time has come around fast, but it's once again time for the annual White Salmon Spring Festival.
This weekend, May 21-23, Rhinegarten Park will come alive with a variety of entertainment, foods, and friendly competition. The Spring Festival kicks off at 2 p.m. on Friday.
"Everything is coming together, but things are happening faster than we're used to," said Amanda McDonald, co-chair of the Spring Festival Committee.
The sense that the festival is coming on faster than usual is not an illusion: This year's festival is actually being held a week earlier than last year. Last year, Spring Festival came on Memorial Day weekend, May 29-31. McDonald explained that the date was altered to avoid conflicts.
"We had the festival planned for June 4-6, then we realized Columbia High School's graduation was June 5, and the previous weekend is Memorial Day," McDonald explained. "The committee felt we would get better participation from the community if we moved the date. We do want a set date for the event each year and not have to change it."
In a community event dating all the way back to 1976, the Spring Festival returns this year with a mixture of traditional and new activities.
Among the highlights are the Youth Talent Show on Friday beginning at 6 p.m.; the "3-on-3" basketball tournament on Saturday at noon; the doubles Tennis Tournament, which starts Friday; and the 5K walk and 8K run, which start Sunday morning at 8:45 and 9 respectively.
The popular "pancake breakfast" starts at the White Salmon Fire Hall at 6 a.m. Saturday and continues through 10 a.m.
There is a packed entertainment schedule as well, with the following acts appearing throughout the weekend on the main stage: Pristine Blue, Harmony of the Gorge & It Takes Four, White Salmon Jazz Band, Richie the Reptile Man, Mona Warner & Ryc Williamson, Billy D & the Hoodoos, the Columbia Gorge Belly Dancers, Phoenix, the Henkle Middle School band, Tim Mayer & Mike Stillman, and Buck Smith & the Connollys. Please see the festival schedule for specific times for the different acts.
Other events include the "Church in the Park" service with Pinecrest Nazarene, on Sunday from 10:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Of course, there will also be the traditional "famous bratwurst" stands; the dunk tank to raise funds for the Columbia High School cheerleaders; the Gorge Cruisers car show; and the antique engine display.
And if your car needs a wash, plan on having that done on Saturday.
"There is a car wash fundraiser for the Class of 2010 Project Graduation," McDonald pointed out. "The car wash will take place in the Riverview Bank parking lot on Saturday, starting after the parade and continuing throughout the day. The senior class uses this money for an all night alcohol-free graduation party."
The big parade through downtown White Salmon starts Saturday at 11 a.m., with Linda Schneider, executive director of Washington Gorge Action Programs, serving as the parade's Grand Marshal.
New this year will be locally-made electric cars. Chris Hipskind, the metal technology teacher at Columbia High School who offers an electric car class, arranged to feature the cars the students designed and made. The cars will be in the parade Saturday, and on display at the park until 2 p.m.
As always, the weather forecast is huge when it comes to the annual White Salmon Spring Festival. Right now, the weather gods do not appear to be smiling too broadly on White Salmon, as the extended forecast as of Monday calls for rain showers on Friday and Saturday, with temperatures ranging from a low of 44 degrees to a high of 54. On Sunday, however, the forecast improves a bit, with the outlook for mostly cloudy skies and a high of 63 degrees.
McDonald said she would remain optimistic.
"As we all know, the weather for the Gorge is not always what the weatherman predicts. Bring an umbrella -- hopefully you won't need it -- and let's have some fun," she said.
McDonald said the Spring Festival Committee appreciates the many local businesses that donate to the event each year.
"Without your support, this event could not happen," she said.