By JESSE BURKHARDT
This year's White Salmon Spring Festival will roar back into town soon. Festivities will take place on the June 3-5 weekend, with most of the events at Rhinegarten Park in White Salmon.
Perhaps the biggest change this year will be the inclusion of two stages as a way to offer a diversity of activities. To accommodate the change, the main stage under the tent and the beer garden are being moved back near the tennis courts to make it easier to hold dual events.
"This year, we really tried to focus on events to bring the whole family out, so we started the second stage," said Amanda McDonald, chair of the Spring Festival Committee chair and parade coordinator. "The committee has been going crazy with two stages so we can offer different acts."
The annual event, which has been ongoing in the community since 1976, officially starts at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 3, as the many concession stands open for business. Later on Friday, the highly popular Youth Talent Show will be featured on the main stage, starting at 6 p.m.
"Any kid who gets on stage to perform gets $5 each. We want to make sure to get the kids involved," McDonald said.
McDonald added that the talent competition is geared to kids "as young as they can act to about 20 years old."
After the talent show, the first musical act of the festival -- the country band Unwound -- will take the stage.
Saturday and Sunday will be filled with a mixture of familiar events and new festivities. Music will be provided by several bands, offering a variety of styles from jazz and blues to pop, country, and rock.
Special activities include the traditional fireman's pancake breakfast at the White Salmon Fire Hall, starting at 6 a.m. Saturday. Proceeds from the breakfast go to support our local firefighters. They are appreciated more than we can ever express, and this is one great way to show support.
Saturday's Grand Parade is always a focal point of the Spring Festival, and, hard rain or hot sunshine, the parade through downtown White Salmon gets rolling at 11 a.m.
This year's parade Grand Marshals are Bruce and Jan Brending of White Salmon.
The couple were chosen because of their history of service to the community.
"Bruce has chosen careers that protect the community -- as a police officer or working with the ambulance crews," McDonald explained. "He's obviously been looking out for the community. And Jan is involved in so many different organizations with the city and businesses. She's always looking out for what's best for the community."
Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes, who has worked with the Brendings in many capacities over the years, said the honor was well deserved.
"I think that's awesome in both cases," Barnes said. "They've done a lot for both communities."
Barnes added that the city of Bingen will have a booth at Spring Festival in an ongoing effort to raise funds for the skateboard park in Daubenspeck Park. According to Barnes, another $90,000 is still needed to pay for "phase two" construction.
The mayor and City Council members will staff the booth, selling bottled water to raise funds.
"We're looking everywhere possible for more grants," Barnes said.
McDonald said the parade will feature about 90 Henkle Middle School students -- members of the HMS Band -- who will march in the parade. The Columbia High School Band will also be featured in the parade.
Other events on Saturday and Sunday include a 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, the Gorge Cruiser car show, a doubles tennis tournament throughout the weekend, and an 8K run and 6K walk on Sunday.
Among the highlights of a series of educational events offered on the gazebo stage will be Ritchey the Reptile Man, who will offer an entertaining and informational program about snakes, turtles, and lizards on Saturday. Also, the Mid-Columbia Family Health Center will offer a program on Saturday titled "healthy eating made simple," and on Sunday Dr. Jennifer Silapie will present "natural approach to anti-aging" at the gazebo. Another drawing card at the gazebo will be the Columbia High School Mariachi Band, which is scheduled for Saturday.
In all, there will be eight separate events at the gazebo over the weekend.
Other highlights include the "famous bratwurst" stand, pony rides, and the always amusing dunk tank -- a fundraiser for the Columbia High School cheerleaders. And the Columbia Gorge Fencing Club will be doing a fencing demonstration on Sunday from 1:30-3 p.m. in the tennis courts.
A new event this year will be the Gorge Gear Swap ("all gear, all sports," according to organizers). This event will take place in the Whitson Elementary Gymnasium. All proceeds from the gear swap will go to support student enrichment at Henkle Middle School.
One other interesting new feature will be a makeshift, 10 foot by 10 foot jail cell in the center of the park. In a clever fundraising activity, festival-goers can buy arrest warrants to have someone "arrested" for a brief time, with the person "incarcerated" in the jail then having to pay to get out. The idea is a fundraiser for the Police Department, which is hoping to raise enough funds to purchase new uniforms and equipment for the officers.
"If you have friends or loved ones you want to have arrested, come by the Police Department and purchase arrest warrants," said Tony Domish, White Salmon's law enforcement consultant. "And when their bail is posted, we'll let them out."
Domish said the jail will be in business all weekend, and the arrest warrants can be purchased in advance at the Police Department in the Park Center or by contacting an officer at the park anytime over the weekend.
"Just come by and say, `here's $10, go and arrest him,'" Domish said.
"That will be hilarious," McDonald said. "I'm going to have my whole office arrested and get a picture of them in jail. It's great that people can get involved with the police in a lighter atmosphere."
White Salmon Mayor David Poucher said the area is overdue for some warm, dry weather, and he is staking his reputation on having the weather cooperate for this year's festival.
"I'm hoping everybody is going to be participating and I've ordered good weather," said White Salmon Mayor David Poucher. "It will be a lot of fun. Hopefully we can get people from all over the area coming in and participating. It's always a fun time."