Oklahoma!’ performs at the Bishop Center

Fancy text for the Oklahoma performance in Aberdeen, WA

STORY & PHOTOS By Stephanie Morton

Catching a glimpse of the behind-scenes machinations of the Bishop Center for Performing Arts’ production of “Oklahoma!” is like seeing how the rabbit comes out the of the magician’s top hat.

The secrets that create stage magic are revealed. You’re seeing the lights and props and costumes that will somehow come together and transport us — the audience — to the Oklahoma Territory in 1906. You’re seeing ordinary people from the Grays Harbor community transform into ranchers and farmers and other territory folk.

Andrew Gaines, head of the theater department at Grays Harbor College, is the director of the show. Saebre Winn-Lark, who possesses an uncanny ability to be everywhere at once, is the assistant director and stage manager.

Between Gaines and Winn-Lark, this is not their first rodeo.

However, it is the first time that “Oklahoma!” will be presented at the Bishop Center.

Gaines said the previous music director infamously and vehemently opposed doing “Oklahoma!” It may be, said Winn-Lark, because the man was made to present it eight times at his previous gig.

But, now there are many good reasons to perform “Oklahoma!” said Gaines, including a personal artistic goal to learn the classics and to perhaps knock out criticism of his more esoteric choices with a big, splashy, well-known and well-loved show requiring a large cast.

“Let’s do the most famous musical in musical theater history!” said Gaines.

The 1943 Broadway production of “Oklahoma!” was a surprising smash hit. The first musical written by the legendary Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, it was based on a book entitled “Green Grow the Lilacs,” said Winn-Lark.

Some of the more famous songs include “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.”

“Oklahoma!” was groundbreaking and changed the face of American musical theater with music and song advancing the plot of the story in what is termed an integrated musical, said Winn-Lark. “’Showboat’ did it first, but ‘Oklahoma!’ was the commercial success.”

During an “Oklahoma!” rehearsal, director Andrew Gaines directs the cast.

Winn-Lark continuously updates the meticulously planned schedule, which has been created to maximize the actors’ time. Gaines watches the actors and provides notes. They confab. They adjust. They reconvene. They move on to the next item on the schedule.

The smallest of details are considered by this directorial dynamic duo. Cornstalks as tall as an elephant’s eye are crafted out of PVC pipe and masking tape.

They talk with a member of the ensemble who sports turquoise and purple hair. She will wear the red prairie dress, rather than the green one, as it’s too short, especially with a petticoat underneath. A scale model helps them plot out scenes.

Spoons, pots and pans and beer steins are prepped for the box social and shivaree scenes. Props are stacked and more stage pieces are built. Lighting and other effects are contemplated. The moon, stars and clouds are plotted out with the lighting designer. Fog is discussed.

The timing of the gunshots is mapped out. (Warning: there will be several firearm discharges during the performance!)

And there is rehearsal! Rehearsal for dialogue. Rehearsal for dance.
Rehearsal for song. The show will have six total performances. Is all this effort worth six performances?

“I conceive the whole thing as a big gift,” said Gaines. “Everyone is here building this gift. We’re all building this massive sandcastle. … No one builds a sandcastle and then protests that it’s only going to get washed away. It’s this human effort that’s ephemeral. And that’s what’s beautiful about it. We’re lovingly preparing this presentation for your pleasure.”

“It is a gift of love, absolutely,” concluded Gaines.

For choreographer Maija Nordin, the dream ballet sequence has been a dream come true. “I have been waiting for this. That was my favorite part of the movie. I was so confused by the plot, but it was such beautiful dancing that it didn’t really matter,” said Nordin. 

In the movie, the actors playing the lead roles were exchanged for dancers during the
ballet scene.


Choreographer Maija Nordin teaches the ensemble a dance number.

The ensemble practices a dance number during rehearsal.
Smoke lingers in the air after Aunt Eller (Kathe Rowe) fires off a round.

“What’s really cool about this production is that we are using actors, and they are just learning ballet. They are just going for it,” said Nordin. She emphasized that it is no easy task to learn ballet. “To see them learn that much technique in such a short period of time … it’s been really fun to work with everyone.”

When it comes to choreography, it’s not just learning the steps. Nordin must be aware of where each person stands, how they move in this particular scene, the direction they may move and if they will collide with someone else, the music, the cues and even how the sound of the dance steps may impact the orchestra or the actors singing. So many moving parts.

Dancing doesn’t come so easily to everyone in the cast. John Howley plays Ali Hakim, a traveling salesman of sorts. Howley said he is much more of an actor than a dancer with this production only his second performance in a musical. To prepare, he has been listening to the “Oklahoma!” soundtrack exclusively.

“My strategy to the dancing is to become really familiar with the music,” said Howley. “So, that’s my focus.”

Perhaps a little more comfortable with the dancing is Jake Conrad who plays cowhand Will Parker. At 21, he is a seasoned musical theater performer.
He can act. He can sing. He can dance. But can he rope?

Conrad knew at age 11 that he wanted to play Will Parker. The character stuck with him. Will was true to himself and his love for his girl never wavered. When auditions for “Oklahoma!” came around, he promised director Gaines that he would learn how to tap dance and he would learn how to rope. Gaines is making Conrad live up to his promises with three roping tricks.

“He wants me to do a flat loop, where it is parallel to the floor. Then, there’s a vertical loop, parallel to your body. If you get those big enough, then you can do something called a Texas Skip, where, if you time it right, you jump through the loop,” said Conrad. “That’s what he wants. We’ll see if it’s doable.”

Conrad said he has been learning roping from the “University of Google” and by watching YouTube videos. For tap lessons, he has been attending classes taught by fellow castmate, Aliss Barré.

The Bishop Center’s production of “Oklahoma!” promises to be an exciting, lively show and not just because of Conrad’s newly acquired skills. The long
hours, dedication and passion of the cast and crew will have you singing like “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’! Oh, what a beautiful day! I’ve got a beautiful feelin’. Everything’s going my waaaaaay!”

Museums of Grays Harbor

The “passport” to summer in Grays Harbor takes visitors and locals alike to “2,224 square miles of fascinating and unique history.” The passport, a wonderful brochure, is as much a treasure map as it is a guidebook to the 14 museums of Grays Harbor County.

Individually, the sites are as diverse as the communities in which they take root, from Lake Quinault to the cranberry bogs of Grayland, on both sides of the Harbor, and from East County to the coast. On a journey through history, they harbor everything from mermaids to traces of Sasquatch, certified ghostly occurrences to beacons of luminescence, horse-less and horse-driven carriages to oddities of the ocean’s depths or some of the world’s tallest trees.

Photo by Angelo Bruscas

Photo by Angelo Bruscas

The past two years of Covid-19 precautions and closures have taken a toll with limited attendance and public availability at all the museums, but directors and longtime volunteers behind the scenes say the time was well served for this summer. They have revived the public passport experience to all the attractions, with one new museum added to the mix – the International Mermaid Museum at the Westport Winery.

“Here’s a road map where you can go to everything,” said John Shaw, who wears more museum hats than anyone in Grays Harbor County as the executive director of the Westport South Beach Historical Society, the Westport Maritime Museum, the Grays Harbor Lighthouse and the Cranberry Museum! Shaw is also instrumental in the reorganization and relocation of the Aberdeen Museum of History and now serves as the chairman of that board as well.

Hoquiam’s Polson Museum

Many of the facilities used the downtime provided by Covid-19 to establish new exhibits, take stock of their collections, or, as in the case of the Polson Museum in Hoquiam, clean house from top to bottom. For the Polson, that meant steaming off all the old wallpaper and painting everything in warm, bright and inviting colors, then putting everything back with new tie-together elements, even updating lighting. It was the first major overhaul since the museum opened in 1977

“The entire building got dismantled of everything, and then got repopulated with everything but in a different way than it ever had before,” said Polson Director John Larson, as a cadre of volunteers applied the finishing touches to a renovation project made possible because of the Covid-19 closures.

“In addition to all the other work, we have tried to come up with a cohesive tie-together for the exhibits, which is to use old-growth fir that came from our own mill here, so all the new lumber you see is from our mill,” Larson said.

One of the artifacts – the wall-sized map of “Chehalis County” before the name was changed to Grays Harbor in 1915 – now is part of a key theme as you begin to view the Polson treasures of history. The map, which Larson calls “our most prized map of all that we have in our collection,” is the cornerstone of an introduction to Grays Harbor exhibit.

“The idea is to do a better job of having interpretation that is more acutely centralized on Grays Harbor County. That’s our mission,” Larson said.

John Hughes, the former editor and publisher of The Daily World and longtime state archivist for the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, can attest with first-hand experience to the richness of the Harbor’s museums.

“During my 15 years as a trustee of the Washington State Historical Society, I have visited practically all the community museums west of the Cascades and several in Eastern Washington. I’m amazed by the breadth of the collections and the dedication and professionalism of the volunteers,” Hughes said.

“The Twin Harbors are particularly blessed, with unique museums at South Bend, Raymond, Westport, Montesano and the crown jewel: The Polson in Hoquiam. What John Larson and his remarkable band of volunteers have created is a model for community museums, with painstaking attention to artifact inventory and innovative displays and exhibits,” Hughes said.

The reopened Polson Museum has a natural flow through the rooms that begins with a feel for what the county once looked like and its Native American heritage, along with the major impact of the timber industry. “We devoted an entire room just to the Native American basket collection,” Larson said.

“Some rooms just took a ton of time. Every door came off, all the windows got cleaned, we physically had to paint inside, upside, floor to ceiling. We also did a full inventory of everything we have, and the process allowed us to really weed through the collection and figure out the relevance of things. It was a very cleansing process.”

In years before the health precautions of Covid-19, the Polson Museum would host 4,000-6,000 people a year. The pandemic forced a precipitous drop in event usage, Larson said.

“We had been very busy with the bridal showers, baby showers, wedding parties and memorial services, so we are hoping that comes back,” he added.

The closure, in fact, was so helpful in museum maintenance that Larson is considering doing a partial one next year “because it was so productive to do this kind of custom mounting. You can’t operate a museum with that amount of chaos” caused by the work. “We’ll finish what we couldn’t get done on this closure next year; that’s the goal.”

Coastal Interpretive Center

Helping to establish the Coastal Interpretive Center’s stated mission of becoming a coastal destination attraction is now foremost to the new job taken by recently hired director Barbara Hayford, who was hired after the center, located in Ocean Shores, embarked on a major renovation inside during the pandemic closures.

Photo by Angelo Bruscas

“We’re basically representing Western Washington from the mouth of the Columbia River to Cape Flattery, all the way up the headwaters of these coastal river watersheds, from the headwaters to the Chehalis to the tops of the Olympic Mountains,” said Hayford, previously the director of the A. Jewell Schock Museum of Natural History at Wayne State College in Nebraska. She lists her passion as biodiversity research, conservation and preservation, which also will be the center’s mission.


“This is a job and a position that just suits me so well,” Hayford says. “And it’s a place I really want to live.”


Historic Road Map

To experience the fully reopened museums of the Harbor takes several days no matter which direction you travel. While many of the museums are free to visit – with donations encouraged, others do charge an entrance fee. Call or check online for the latest pricing information.

Here are five different routes to explore the museums in our area. Each route could take about a day, depending on where you are leaving from and how much you like to linger at the displays.

Route 1: Starting at the epicenter, the Polson Museum in Hoquiam, for its overall emphasis on the history and culture of the entire area, it’s a 28-mile drive west to the Coastal Interpretive Center to witness its vastly improved exhibits of ocean- and coast-based collections and Ocean Shores artifacts.

Route 2: Take another day to continue farther north, up State Route 109, to the next stop – the Museum of the North Beach in Moclips, with its unique collections of coastal history and legends of the North Beach, and its ongoing development of a future new home just down the road. Then continue north to Taholah. The Quinault Tribal Museum includes a large display of artifacts, basketry, carvings and family collections. Make sure to stop at the Lake Quinault Museum, which has artifacts from life in the rainforest from pioneers to present day. It’s located in the old Post Office building on the south shore.

Route 3: Another full day can take you museum hopping to the south of Grays Harbor. Travel down State Route 105 stopping to see the eye-catching wonders in the International Mermaid Museum at the Westport Winery, with its ocean ecology themes. Then head to the stately Westport Maritime Museum in the old Nantucket-style Coast Guard station and its visual wonder – the Fresnel lens from the Destruction Island Lighthouse. After that, on the other side of Westport you can climb 125 feet above sea level on a visit to the Grays Harbor Lighthouse, all the way up to its Fresnel clam-shell lens and the surround view of the coast and Harbor. The lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Route 4: Another day’s historic route is through the museums of east Grays Harbor County and the Chehalis Valley. Depending on what direction you are coming from, start at the McCleary Museum at Carnell House, with its history of town founder Henry McCleary and his logging company and door factory. Then travel west to Montesano. As the county seat, it has two museums: the Chehalis Valley Historical Society Museum on Pioneer Avenue highlights logging and homesteading in the area; and the Running Anvil Carriage Museum on Black Creek Road features more than 30 restored carriages in several buildings.

Route 5: On yet another day, a full circuit can take in the Cranberry Museum in Grayland and then the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond, in neighboring Pacific County, with its world-class collection of restored horse-drawn vehicles and artifacts from the 19th century.

The passport to highlight the museums was developed pre-Covid as a project made possible by the Grays Harbor Foundation. Most of the museums may have this handy guide available, or you can visit graysharbormuseum.org for information on how to obtain one.

The Road Ahead

John Shaw said each museum has developed its own identity even if they have common purposes. “Everyone seems to have grown up organically, with funding mechanisms that fit their particular museum.”

“I don’t think the museums feel they compete with each other,” Shaw added “We find the opposite, that people like to go from place to place.”

Some of the destinations on the museum passport are pretty much the way they have always been, such as the Lighthouse, but worth revisiting just for the view. Some were still in the process of trying to reopen, such as the Cranberry Museum or the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport.

At the Cranberry Museum, Shaw says, “We had a great summer and harvest in 2021 and will be open in June, and expect to be open Friday through Sunday starting in July and running through the harvest and Harvest Festival.”

Several, such as the Lighthouse, Westport Maritime Museum and Coastal Interpretive Center, have showcased local art and artists this year to add to the attractions. Others plan to expand or, as in the case of the Museum of the North Beach, move into a new home one day. The Coastal Interpretive Center recently adopted a new long-range strategic plan.

“We want to be a world-class institution,” Hayford says. “We’re not going to build a Smithsonian out here, but we will be the institution that represents this geographic area, and we’re going to do it as well as any other institution does, even though we may be small. When I get super excited, it’s when I am just thinking about this region.”

photo by Angelo Bruscas

Grays Harbor Museums

McCleary Museum & Heritage Center
314 South 2nd Ave., McCleary
(360) 470-2340
Open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sat. & Sun.

Chehalis Valley Historical Society Museum

703 W. Pioneer Ave., Montesano
(360) 470-6181
Open from noon to 4 p.m. Sat. & Sun.

Running Anvil Carriage Museum

445 Black Creek Rd., Montesano
(360) 249-3645
Open Most Days

Grays Harbor Historical Seaport

500 N. Custer St., Aberdeen
(360) 532-8611
Check website for current status

The Aberdeen Museum (temporary location)

200 W. Market St., Aberdeen
(360) 533-1976
Open 1 to 4 p.m., Thurs. & Fri. and from 5 to 8 p.m. the first Friday of the month

Polson Museum

1511 Riverside Ave, Hoquiam
(360) 533-5862
Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weds. – Sat. And noon to 4 p.m. Sunday

International Mermaid Museum

7 South Arbor Rd, Aberdeen
(360) 648-2224
Open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Grays Harbor Lighthouse

1020 Ocean Ave., Westport
(360) 268-0078
Seasonal Hours

Westport Maritime Museum

2201 Westhaven Dr, Westport
(360) 268-0078
Seasonal Hours

The Cranberry Museum

2395 State Route 105, Grayland
(360) 267-3303
Expected to reopen this summer

Coastal Interpretive Center

1033 Catala Ave SE, Ocean Shores
(360) 289-4617
Seasonal Hours

Museum of the North Beach

4568 State Route 109, Moclips
(360) 276-4441 • Seasonal Hours

Quinault Tribal Museum

807 5th Ave. Plaza Suite 1, Taholah
(360) 276-8215 ext. 245
Open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mon. – Fri.

Lake Quinault Museum

354 South Shore Rd., Quinault
(360) 288-2361
Open Memorial Day – Labor Day • From noon to 5 p.m. daily In Pacific County

Northwest Carriage Museum

314 Alder St., Raymond
(360) 942-4150
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Shoalwater Bay Heritage Museum

4115 State Route 105, Tokeland
(360) 267-8240
Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues.- Sat.
Closed from noon to 1 p.m. daily.

Jade Black Fine Art Photography

Once you have seen a Jade Black photograph you will never forget it. You will not be able to escape the powerful emotions it evokes. Her work consists of dark, hauntingly beautiful images, all featuring the artist herself, a small, vulnerable figure in gothic costumes, lost in the daunting magnificence of our coastal landscapes.
“I am an open book,” says Black. Freeing her from childhood trauma, the masterfully composed photographs bring art therapy to a new level. She hopes that her images will also help others cope with emotional trauma.
Jade Black was born and raised in the Lucerne Valley in Southern California. Growing up in a loveless foster home, beginning at age four, left her emotionally scarred. Her artistic talent had emerged early and developed further in high school, where she refined her drawing and painting skills.

Portrait of Jade Black Artist
Photo by Jade Black
Photo of Jade Black Artist on the Beach with Camera in Foreground
Photo by Jade Black

However, she says she has found her true medium in photography. Black studied graphic arts and photography at the Chicago Art Institute’s online program, graduating with an associate of arts degree in photography in 2012.
She dabbled in portrait photography, but her creative spirit would not allow her to settle for a standard photography business. Besides, in addition to building a career, she needed to nurture her emotional health.
Looking at the shapely, beautiful, 33-year-old, it is hard to believe that she weighed 230 pounds when she decided to photograph herself. “It was very hard to take photos of my body,” she remembers. “It was so terrible that I just had to lose weight.”
Jade Black’s signature photography fully emerged when she moved to Grays Harbor in 2019.
“I had seen the forest in the Twilight movies,” she recalls. “I felt drawn to the Pacific Northwest landscape – the many shades of green.” Her favorite colors are green and black, appropriately reflected in her name, which is not the one she was given at birth. She changed it, just like her life and her surroundings. She infuses her life and her art with symbols of her struggles and victories.

Even though her natural surroundings inspire her, Black’s photographs do not begin with a place.
“I picture myself somewhere, for example as a princess sitting on a ledge,” she says. ”Then I go and search for the right place. It can take a long time, but I have learned to wait for the perfect spot.”
Then she dresses up. An entire room in her home in Ocean Shores is filled with costumes, mostly long, ornate, romantic dresses she found in thrift stores. She usually adds a long, luxurious wig to the outfit. Although her photographs are built up digitally, from composite layers, she always takes shots of herself on site. This often involves walking into the ice-cold surf, barefoot, in a thin gown.  She believes that suffering the cold adds to the truthfulness of the image.
After shooting on location, Black begins her studio work. She estimates she spends an average of five hours of Photoshop composition per image. She likes to color foliage in reds and purples using the digital palette as a painter uses a brush, often adding a dramatic sky as a background layer.
Symbols abound in her work: ropes, chains, tape or cages, imprisoning her wounded soul. She loves to photograph birds, which feature in most of her pictures. Crows, seagulls, herons, pelicans and other species surround the lonely woman in the photographs, sometimes appearing to lift her up, sometimes merging and becoming one with her.
The butterfly is another favorite. In a striking photograph she is enclosed in a hollow tree wearing long butterfly wings with her face wrapped in a lace chrysalis. The struggle of emerging from the cocoon is an important recurring motif.

Jade Black Art

Image by Jade Black

Jade Black feels called to help the emotionally traumatized through her work. She has begun to add eloquent texts to her photographs to clarify the cathartic purpose of her dark images. Her words are poetic rather than descriptive, touching the emotions rather than reason.
“I believe in God,” she says. “He uses me as a vessel for his purpose.” She is extremely goal-oriented, aiming to reach one person a day and praying for the words to reach that one person.
A brown paper scroll listing her goals is mounted on the wall of Black’s richly decorated studio, a concrete and symbolic prop on her way out of the chrysalis. Completed items are encouragingly crossed out with a thick black marker. Milestone achievements include a large whale photograph displayed in the Westport Maritime Museum, a book of her photography published, and having become a permanent artist at the Tim Rossow Watercolors & Associates Gallery in Ocean Shores, and at Alder Grove Gallery and Mother Crow’s Gallery, both in Aberdeen.
Unchecked goals involve more exposure for her work and “healing through art” projects. Her purpose is to reach and encourage as many people as she can. Her big dream for the future is her own art gallery, made of brick, painted black, with gold letters and a workplace in the center. The butterfly is spreading her wings!

To view, purchase or commission her work, go online to Jade-Black.com.

Photo of Jade Black Artist's Studio
Photo by Christine Vincent

Classes, TV show and upcoming events

Jade Black will be a featured artist at the Aberdeen Art Center during the Rain Glow Festival, July 23. On July 24, she will participate in the Art Splash Festival studio tours in Ocean Shores.

Black also has her own TV show on North Beach TV, Channel 68: “Jade Black – Healing Through Art.”  The hour-long program airs on northbeachnow.com/arts-entertainment each Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. (Reruns can be seen every other day of the week.)

In addition, she teaches each month at the Tim Rossow Watercolors & Associates Gallery, 171 E. Chance a La Mer N.E., in Ocean Shores. The “Introduction to Fine Art Photography” classes include Camera Basics on June 25; Composition, Color, Mood on July 30; Lighting on August 27; Storytelling on September 24 and Shooting with Intention on October 22.

For more details about the classes, contact rossow.tim@gmail.com.

After devastating fire, new Aberdeen Museum is coming soon

A new Aberdeen Museum of History won’t be open this summer, but volunteers are  continuing to reorganize, restore and chronicle what remains from the June 9, 2018, fire that gutted the old museum location in the Aberdeen Armory Building.

The museum even has added a few new items such as a priceless Weatherwax family piano donated by Tom Quigg, and the state highway sign made famous by the hands of Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and donated by Wil Russoul.

The new plan approved by the city is to locate the museum in the heart of downtown in the 100 block of West Wishkah Street in the former Salvation Army retail building. The city closed the deal on the building for $350,000 on Feb. 23, but it also began to review the $1.6 million in renovations needed to remodel it for the museum.

Photo by Jetta Smith

After the fire, Westport/South Beach Historical Director John Shaw was drafted among other community members to begin to reconstitute the museum board under city ordinance. At the time of the fire, the city had been in the process of reorganizing the museum’s organizational structure.

“So basically, I, along with a number of other folks, responded to the call by the city for interested people to be on the museum board,” said Shaw, who is now the chairman. The board is responsible for the care and the custody of the collections, and for developing plans to display and interpret the history of Aberdeen.

“The city has laid out what it wants to have happen to that building before it can be used for public engagement again,” Shaw said. As of press time, the City of Aberdeen had yet to approve funding to “go forward with a plan that would open the museum at this point.” But progress is being made toward that goal.

“After three years of asking the city to allow us to re-engage with volunteers under a board-directed plan, we are starting that activity now,” Shaw said. That will include the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum group, the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, as well as board members and other volunteers “who want to engage with the collection.”

Currently, all the remaining artifacts and exhibits are stored in a warehouse off Port Industrial Road near Home Depot. While efforts continue to create the new site, the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum have set up temporary rotating displays from the museum collection at 200 W. Market St. in downtown Aberdeen.

When the museum is restored, Shaw said its goal would be to “interpret the story of Grays Harbor overall, in addition to really focusing on Aberdeen as a city. We are working on why Aberdeen happened as a place, the Grays Harbor economy, and some of that story will come out in the redevelopment of Aberdeen.”

Prized pieces that survived the fire include a canoe carved by a Quinault Indian named Hyak and purchased by the Schafer Brothers Logging Company in the 1800s. Another is an intricately carved wooden horse that is said to have a special bottle of champagne imbedded inside. There is a charred, but intact, firefighting rig built in 1926. And, there is the massive bell from the old Congregational Church in Aberdeen that once rang out across the city. Amazingly it has retained its timbre after the fire.

“Some people who had donated items over the years were curious about whether their stuff survived,” noted George Donovan, vice chairman of the museum board. Of the collections that did survive, many may need special restoration still, along with repainting and refinishing. Donovan estimates more than 5,000 photographs are still in the hands of the Washington State Archives, many of which were water damaged.

“They have cleaned them and dried them, and now they are stored,” Donovan said. “There’s one step left. They have to rewet them and then flatten them, and then they will come back to us.”

Photo by Jetta Smith

“Our history is so rich, so spectacular,” Donovan added when asked about the Aberdeen Museum’s future. “It affected everything that happened around the state. Aberdeen, Tacoma and Longview were the logging centers that brought the industry, with shipbuilding and the fishing that came off of that.”

Both museum board members believe that support for the museum restoration shouldn’t be so politically contentious as they seek long-term funding solutions. “We’re getting back to being a museum now,” Shaw said. “But we still have kind of a limited lane with which we can work in. In fairness, Aberdeen has so many different needs for so many different things.”

Shorebirds’ annual migration inspires awe

For the second consecutive year, the Grays Harbor Shorebird and Nature Festival will be a virtual-only event because of Covid-19. That won’t, however, keep the migratory visitors from heading this way in droves! The 27th annual festival is set for April 29 – May 1. It’s that last week of April and first week of May when hundreds of thousands of plovers, dowitchers, turnstones, sandpipers, dunlin, red knots and others are expected to rest and feed in the Harbor, on the Central Washington coast and in the rich estuary at Hoquiam’s Bowerman Basin on their migrations north. While the largest concentration of shorebirds on the West Coast will return this spring like clockwork, many of the popular festival attractions will have to wait for another year.

Arnie Martin, Grays Harbor Audubon Society vice president and the chief organizer of the event, says the public portion of the festival (including its workshops, field trips, vendor booths, lectures and shuttle buses) has been canceled for 2022. “With what’s been going on, it’s been virtually impossible to plan. And, we can’t be carting buses around to sites like we used to,” says Martin who has volunteered with each Shorebird Festival for the past decade, helping it grow to about 2,000 registered participants. “In 2020 we had to cancel the Shorebird Festival entirely,” notes Glynnis Nakai, who manages the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out of the Nisqually National Refuge Complex north of Olympia. “Then last year, we made it into a self-guided festival.” “Wildlife migration is one of nature’s most amazing spectacles,” says Davy Clark, education program manager for the refuge, featured in a video made for last year’s event.

“Whether it’s elephants in Africa, gray whales, penguins in Antarctica or monarch butterflies, migrating wildlife are traveling thousands of miles every year. For a short period of time every single year an incredible group of wildlife called shorebirds visit Grays Harbor National Wildlife here in Hoquiam. “They are truly amazing because even though they are traveling 5,000 to 6,000 miles, some of them up to 10,000 miles every year, they may be as small as one ounce,” Clark says.

Photo courtesy of Art Wolfe

Traditionally, the festival has been a key fundraiser for the Grays Harbor Audubon Society and a popular attraction for birdwatchers, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts worldwide. The intent of the virtual festival this year is to encourage people to return to nature, while considering human safety. “Nature is on a cycle that is not altered by Covid,” says Seattle-based photographer and author Art Wolfe, renowned for his portraits of wildlife and landscapes.

Wolfe recalls first photographing the migratory birds some 50 years ago, lugging his big lens, cameras and gear through the mudflats. “As a photographer who makes a living documenting the natural world, it’s really a treasure to have this in my own backyard,” Wolfe says. His work has been featured in magazines such as National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, and GEO, and his art has been featured on three USPS stamps. In addition to several traveling exhibitions, Wolfe has also had four major exhibitions at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum, including One World, One Vision.

“On any given year, I might be on five or six different continents working on various projects, but the very fact I still live where I grew up speaks volumes for the spectacular nature of this region where we live,” Wolfe says. One part of the 2022 festival that won’t be canceled is the annual shorebird art contest for local elementary school students. The contest, in which the top entry is featured in the next year’s festival publicity campaign, is a tradition that dates back 15 years. This year Mason Craig, of Simpson Elementary School in Montesano, was awarded top honors for his depiction of a Pacific golden plover.

The best way to experience the Shorebird Festival virtually is to start at the website Shorebirdfestival.com, says Nakai. The website will have links to live virtual presentations and guide visitors “with directions to go along the coast, near Westport, Ocean Shores, and of course we highlight the Sandpiper Trail at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge,” she says. “We really want to emphasize all the things the public and the visitors can do on their own and still experience the amazing sight of the shorebirds,” Nakai says.

Photo courtesy of Tom Rowley

The Sandpiper Trail, Nakai notes, is a “key spot for migratory birds, primarily shorebirds” and offers the easiest public access to get near the mudflats where the shorebirds normally feed and rest. The last week of April and first week of May are the key dates. “That’s when the shorebirds are really moving in big numbers, and you see different species. They are coming from as far as South America and migrating north into the Tundra of Alaska for nesting,” Nakai says. The best viewing times are usually three hours before high tide to three hours after high tide during daylight hours. “Bowerman Basin is the last area to get flooded by high tide, and it’s the first area to get exposed as the tide recedes. Shorebirds are shallow-water, mudflat-type inhabitants. That’s where they are foraging and feeding,” Nakai says.

The Sandpiper Trail, which offers the best viewing areas, extends into the salt marsh area. The trail begins near the end of Bowerman airport in Hoquiam. “It gets closer to the mudflats,” Nakai says. As the tide comes up, it pushes birds closer to the trail. “So, if you’re out there on the Sandpiper Trail, you’re watching birds just 40 feet away in some places. Excellent viewing, excellent opportunities for photography.” Tom Rowley, a retired physician who has become an avid bird photographer, walks along the Wildlife Refuge daily. His photographs of the shorebirds have been used by the Wildlife Refuge to showcase information about the basin. Timing is everything when it comes to viewing or photographing the shorebirds. “If you go out right at high tide, sometimes the whole basin gets covered in water and all the shorebirds disappear. But they come back,” Rowley says.

While the Sandpiper Trail provides “a good spot for an overview and to get some distance photos of the shorebird flocks. It’s not a great place for closeups,” he adds. For close up shots, Rowley recommends Bottle Beach State Park between Aberdeen and Westport. “As the tide comes in, the shorebirds get pushed in toward the shore. Shorebirds actually are pretty easy to photograph because they are more concerned about eating. If you just stand there, the shorebirds will approach you.”

At 76, Rowley admits he doesn’t cart his camera around as much as he once did, but in recent years he has been able to accompany a state Fish and Wildlife biologist surveying red knots.  The survey has found that the red knots that stop here come from as far as Russia. “They really are very remarkable animals in that they can fly the distances they do, and sometimes it’s over the open ocean,” Rowley says. “It seems amazing. How can they do that?”

Photographer Art Wolfe also expresses that this year in particular, having that wonder awakened by the beauty of nature is comforting. “The cycle of these birds coming back through Grays Harbor every year – in an era where we have had nothing but two years of Covid changing our lives – I think it brings comfort to people,” Wolfe says. “People just want something familiar or something that’s evergreen, and those birds coming back every year provide that. Even though the balance of nature is fragile, those birds will be there in April. “People need that grounding connection to nature. Do it for yourself. Get out there and reconnect with nature and see what’s in your own backyard,” Wolfe urges.

Nakai would agree with such advice: “The main message we want to promote – visiting the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is free and open from sunrise to sunset.  We want to see our communities on the trail exploring the wonders of shorebirds and celebrate their annual migration through Grays Harbor.”

Photo Tips from Top Wildlife Photographer

World-renowned wildlife photographer Art Wolfe has photographed wildlife and natural environments on every continent of the world. The Seattle resident has photographed the shorebirds many times over the years and offered some advice on how to best capture their images during their annual stop in Grays Harbor.

He suggests the following:

  • “The first thing, when you get out there on that boardwalk, just watch. There is a rhythm to the birds flying back and forth. Though they may be a mile away from you at one moment, they could be right in front of you the next.”
  • “At high tide, the birds come in close. Out of sheer need, they have to rest, and when the tide is high it brings them closer to the shore where people can get their photos. At low tide, they are way out and are just tiny, tiny dots.”
  • “On your camera, bounce up your ISO setting, because most people have digital cameras these days. Don’t be afraid of using ISOs of 1,000 or 2,000, or even 4,000 depending on the quality of camera you have. You need that speed to get that sharp shot.”(CC note: If you boost the ISO it will increase the sensor’s sensitivity to light on your camera. This will allow you to have a high shutter speed for quick birds, but gain the light sensitivity you need to get a good exposure.)
  • “You don’t need a heavy tripod. If you have digital camera, the lenses are smaller these days and they are good. The ability to pan left and right as the birds are flying by is critical.” Art Wolfe’s work can be seen online at www.artwolfe.com and at the Carnevale Gallery in Las Vegas.

Lake Quinault Lodge, an architectural jewel housing guests, local art, history

The scenic beauty of the Olympic Peninsula attracts people from around the world. Visiting the Lake Quinault Lodge, an architectural masterpiece, is an unexpected bonus in the thinly populated wilderness at the southwestern end of the Olympic National Park.

For almost a century the Lake Quinault Lodge, celebrated architect Robert Reamer’s beautiful hotel, has inspired those who lived, visited or worked there. Reamer’s extensive resumé included other beautiful wilderness lodges, such as the famous Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park.

Situated on the south shore of Lake Quinault, the Lake Quinault Lodge includes more than 90 rooms, an elegant ballroom, lakeview restaurant and welcoming lobby. While care has been taken to preserve the historic country-inn style of the rooms, modern amenities have been added.

Photo by Katie McGregor

“We have no rooms without a view,” says front desk manager Kimberly Booth.” You either look out over the lake or over the rain forest.” Booth, of Neilton, has worked at the lodge since 1992. One of her tasks is giving tours, which is important because the lodge has a rich, historic past.

While there had been other hotels at Lake Quinault, it was in the 1920s that lumber baron Ralph D. Emerson decided to invest in a new hotel on Lake Quinault. (His father, George H. Emerson, the millionaire president of the Northwestern Lumber Company, was known as the Father of Hoquiam.)

Meanwhile Frank Lewis McNeil, who had experience in the hospitality industry, saw an opportunity. While working linotype for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, he had learned of the earlier Lake Quinault hotel’s destruction by fire.

With Emerson as his partner, McNeil secured a building permit from the Forest Service for a “modest structure.” In 1925, the partners built a two-story log hotel. But soon after opening, the new hotel proved to be too small. (The beautifully remodeled structure, now known as the Boathouse, still houses guests today.)

To build a larger structure, Emerson attracted a silent partner, Carl Morck, owner of the Morck Hotel in Aberdeen. Together they raised $75,000 to construct “the quintessential inn.” The Forest Service approved the project, especially when it became known that Robert Reamer was to be the architect.

While perhaps best known nationally for designing the grand Old Faithful Inn, Robert C. Reamer was also well known in the Grays Harbor area. In 1924, he had completed the magnificent Emerson Hotel in Hoquiam. And, while constructing the Lake Quinault Lodge, Reamer was also working on the Skinner Building, housing the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

Reamer’s biographer Ruth Quinn admired his ability “to create magnificent spaces. … spaces that have become beloved by people for generations.” Considering the variety of stylistic elements, Quinn summarizes the lodge’s design as an early form of the Pacific Northwest style with “naturally stained wood shingles, a pitched roof, placement in a natural setting, and relationship with the interior and exterior environments.”

Photo by Katie McGregor

The two-and-a-half-story, cedar-shingled, wood frame structure is set back from the lakefront to avoid flooding. The building forms an open V-shape with the lobby at its center and large wings embracing the large lawn rolling down to the lake. Rows of floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides look out over the lake, or the rain forest, respectively.

Over the years, the forest has encroached upon the lodge, enhancing its beauty. The landscaping was planned this way. Many native and exotic species were planted on the 67-acre site, most notably the California redwoods in 1930. Towering far above the lodge’s roof, these giants are living proof of just how much the species Sequoia sempervirens can grow in 98 years.

In the expansive lobby, anchored by a massive stone fireplace, one wall displays 20 historic photos that document the stages of the legendary construction of the lodge. “It was built in 53 days to beat the rainy season,” Booth says.”  They were burning bonfires so that the crew of 45 craftsmen could work around the clock. They called it hotbed construction.”

The grand opening of the Lake Quinault Lodge was celebrated August 18, 1926, with 500 guests. All rooms were blessed by Sally Freeman, a Quinault medicine woman who lived on the lake.

Photo by Katie McGregor

The management was turned over to Frank McNeil and his wife, Estella. They lovingly completed much of the interior design in agreement with Reamer’s ideas for a Native American theme reflecting the art of the local tribes. With impeccable taste, Stella selected and purchased everything from wicker furniture for the lobby to Pendleton blankets for the guest rooms. She had become close friends with Freeman who had taught her basket weaving and the art of rock gardening.

The McNeils maintained good relations with their Native American neighbors, establishing a trend for the future.

Estella decorated the lobby with Quinault rock garden displays and beaded lampshades. Quinault Chief Howeattle and his people often visited. Their artwork was for sale on the premises. Today, the staircase leading to the second floor displays stunning historic photographs of Native American women, among them two women from the Howeattle family.

Yet, when it came to the décor, there was not much concern with cultural authenticity in the 1920s, Booth notes, pointing out the decorations on the old-growth fir beams in the lobby. The designs resemble Mayan rather than local Native American art. As Booth gives a tour, it’s clear the lodge includes history around each corner.

For instance, October 1, 1937, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt lunched in the dining room, while visiting the area that had been proposed as a national park. Deeply impressed with the lodge, he remarked: “This is one of the most beautiful settings I have ever seen.” He promised to approve the establishment of the Olympic National Park, a promise he made true nine months later, on June 29, 1938. A menu signed by the president and photographs of the occasion are displayed on a dining room wall.

An adjacent wall section displays a canoe carved by another president, Joseph B. DeLaCruz, president of the Quinault Tribe from 1972 to 1993. It is flanked by paddles honoring other tribal members. In 1939, the McNeils left the lodge and Ralph Emerson sold it. Kimberly Booth points out structural changes introduced by a series of private owners after World War II – the extended dining area enclosing the terrace in front of the old dining room, the 16-unit fireplace annex and the indoor heated pool and game room.

The totem pole rain gauge on the outside of the brick chimney has become a landmark. Judy McVay, a pioneering Humptulips chainsaw artist, was commissioned to carve this beautiful piece of folk art in 1966. (McVay was featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Coastal Currents.)  It measures the rain in feet! The artist happily mixes native-inspired design elements with art-deco stained-glass motifs.

In 1988, ARAMARK, a national food and lodging concessionaire, purchased the lodge. The company added the 36-room modern Lakeside Annex. It’s now weathered cedar-shingle siding blends in beautifully with the main lodge’s architecture. At the foot of the stairs, in the entrance hallway, there is a carved Quinault Lodge sign in honor of Mike Turner, facilities manager from 2008-15.

Photo by Katie McGregor

With his great love for the building and local history, Turner is in great part responsible for how art, history and tributes to staff members are displayed in the lodge today. He teamed up with a like-minded friend from the Quinault Tribe, Justine James, to collect and curate local stories, photographs and artifacts. James contributed many photos and artifacts, including some dugout canoes.

“Mike was a great guy, always looking for ways to improve the place,” Booth said. He wanted decorations for the Lakeside Annex and asked if any of the staff were artistic. Booth herself responded, painting a beautiful Quinault eagle which now hangs on one of its cedar-shingled walls.

As Harvest Moon, Quinault basket weaver and storyteller, said about the lodge: “When people come here, it’s not just to relax and visit; it’s to make memories or begin memories.”

Architect Robert Reamer’s jewel set in the Olympic National Park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, ensuring that it will be preserved for future generations to meet and share their stories and creations.