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Washington's Festivals of Fun, Folly

February 08, 1987|MARY McKERNAN | McKernan is a Bellevue, Wash., free-lance writer.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Chasing the blues away is no big deal in the state of Washington where silly celebrations help to lighten doleful spirits.

The captions given to some of these affairs are, of themselves, enough to tease a smile: Wild Goose Bill Days at Wilbur, Oyster Stampede at South Bend, Big Bottom Blast at Randle, Big Cheese Days at Toledo, Chokes and Spokes at Colville. And how about Slippery Gulch Days at Tekoa?

All of the festivals feature plenty of excuses for having fun and, according to Washingtonians, any one of them can cure a mild attack of the dismals. But for more severe cases of melancholia, they say a few in particular rate more than mere mention.

Undiscovery Day, April 25 at Ocean Shores, is one of the state's oddest occasions because it commemorates something that did not happen. Nevertheless, it is billed as an outstanding event when all who show up stand out--on the beach--at midnight to play up a night 190 years ago when explorer Capt. George Vancouver sailed right by this spot without ever discovering it.

Preliminary ingestions, of course, are deemed necessary before braving the elements, but promptly at the stroke of 12 the intrepid celebrants wend their way down to the shore, giggling and shrieking, "Hey George!" at the top of their lungs, hoping that Vancouver's ghost will answer and explain his oversight.

Never Been a Reply

So far, there's never been a reply from out of the briny, but usually one comes from behind as men wearing blue uniforms and pained expressions get out of cars with flashing lights and advise the raucous bunch to walk , not drive, back to hotels or homes and sleep it off.

Sequim (that rhymes with swim) holds its Irrigation Ditch days May 2-10. Every year the history of this furrow fair is written up in the town newspaper, the Jimmy Come-Lately Gazette, informing its readers why the ditch is such a groovy thing to celebrate.

Before it was built in 1895, Sequim was surrounded by 25,000 acres of wasteland. But after irrigation, the area became a banana belt. Locals have never ceased to give fervent thanks for the miracle and do it by raising holy Ned every year. "Ditch Your Troubles Like Sequim Did" proclaims a sign tacked to a telephone pole.

It's water over the dam that washes away cares at the Metaline Dam Hot Foot Faze, May 1-3. The shindig revolves around a square dance social wherein participants revolve atop the dam's generators. It's sort of a weird place to hold a dance, but those who go always swear that they haven't felt so regenerated since the year before.

Around the middle of May, the International Freestyle Clam Eating Contest is held on Seattle's waterfront at Pier 54. Rules established in 1949 (in Port Townsend where the bivalve buffoonery began) are rigidly adhered to, and specify that contestants may use thumbs, fingers, elbows or any "ethical tool."

Port Townsend was forced to relinquish the tournament after 1975 when no more area challengers could be found to compete against a local clam-buster who managed to slurp down 424 clams in eight minutes, with his false teeth in his pocket. Seattle never lacks for recruits, but so far the P.T. record stands.

At George, Wash., folks maintain that it's easy as pie to counter sad syndromes during Real George Days, July 4th weekend. And a gigantic cherry pie it is that brings on the smiles. Baked in a special oven, it's eight feet across, and pie is served to all comers for as long as the supply holds out.

Food is also an attraction at the McCleary Bear Festival, third weekend in July. Here, though, the piece de resistance is Ragout of Bear. This is a tree-farming community and the shaggy beasts are not popular because they are forever munching on and killing cedar saplings.

Dishing Up the Enemy

McCleary's slogan is "Eat the Bears Before They Eat Our Trees," and each year it dishes up the enemy. The only people displeased with the entree are a bunch of SOBs (for Save Our Bears) who eschew the stew and tramp the streets waving censorious placards.

Elma's big event, Aug. 5-9, used to be called the Slugfest, but the name evidently disgusted genteel citizens who changed the title to the less slimy but more prosaic Gray's Harbor County Fair. The Championship Slug Race is still on the agenda, however, and the humorous heats attracts entrants from all over the Pacific Northwest. Rent-a-slug dealers are also on hand to furnish contenders for people who lack their own pulmonate gastropods.

It isn't an Oktoberfest that brings visitors to Steilacoom--oldest incorporated town in the state--the second weekend of October. It's the Apple Squeeze, a good-natured cider-making festival where people lug bushels of apples to squeeze in presses provided by the town.

Adding to the wholesome cheeriness of the occasion are the homemade apple pies, caramel apples and apple butter for sale. Happiness in Steilacoom is also being able to have a sarsaparilla or a Green River float at the drugstore's old-fashioned soda fountain.

For additional information about Washington's goofy galas, write for "Statewide Calendar of Events," published by the Department of Trade and Economic Development, Tourism Development Division, 101 General Administration Building, Olympia, Wash. 98504.

Until you receive it, put your blues on hold.

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