Posted by: thelctownie | January 10, 2012

A Taste of La Conner! – Guest Blogger Leslie Barnes

Thank you to Leslie Barnes, who recently attended a workshop at Gail Harker Creative Studies Center and wrote this post for Gail’s blog (and is allowing us to share it with our readers as well). We love it when guests come to La Conner and discover how very cool our little corner of the world really is! 

© Lynda Williamson

Just returned from session 3 (A &D) and although my suitcases and the supplies inside are still in need of unpacking and sorting, just wanted to do a bit of gushing over Gail’s new digs and the quaint town of La Conner.

We (L, L, and L) fly from Calgary to Abbotsford, rent a car and drive to Gail’s. En route we stop and shop for class supplies and anything else that catches our eye. Bellingham is a favorite pit stop and there we visit Dakota Arts, Stampadoodle and a new find, Sweet Art (the most amazing chocolate treats including turtles and caramels!!). A good thing it is too far to drive to on a whim ….

© Gail Harker

Gail’s ‘Barn House’ is so amazing! The studio space is warm and inviting with ample display and work areas. The lighting is superb – much natural light and every window offers a view of gardens, fields and shrubs. While Gail will tell you that there is much more for them to do, it already feels like “Gail’s Studio”. La Conner, just minutes from Gail’s (we drove it in a golf cart in good time – what??), offers great shopping and restaurants. A few samplings this time included: La Conner Brewing Co. (clam chowder, Thai chicken pizza, chicken nachos), Nell Thorn (French bistro salad with creamy gorgonzola; con oglio pasta (olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes, parmesan … )) and some shopping at the Stall and Cottons (silk and wool scarves, beautifully patterned socks and supple leather gloves).

© Lynda Williamson

What more could you ask for?? Coffee!! Coffee????? We realized that there was not a Starbuck’s to be found in La Conner – Oh No!!! (no franchises allowed in La Conner – how cool is that!). Fear not, the coffee addicts in the group are pleased to report that they have La Crema!!! Only minutes away from Gail’s, Troy, the engaging barista (and owner), will get you fixed up with your on-the-way-to-Gail’s latte. By the way … don’t eat breakfast – pickup one of the Scone Lady’s amazing scones at La Crema (Marion berry, lemon and coconut cream … just to name a few). You might just want to order ahead, to avoid disappointment!

© Lynda Williamson

We already feel quite a home at Barn House and look forward to more ‘finds’ in La Conner when we return in 2012. Home is where the heart is and there is much heart in the new Gail Harker studio.

p.s. Do not drive the rented golf cart on the highway – it is OK to drive it in La Conner but illegal on the highway (but only if you get caught) … 2 blondes in a golf cart, what do you expect!!

Posted by: thelctownie | January 4, 2012

Swan Lake

The past two weeks I’ve made several different trips from La Conner to I-5 via Conway. And I have loved every single trip! Sure, it’s been windy and it’s been rainy and it’s been gray and overcast.

But OH MY GOSH … right now the fields are full of Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans. And they are exquisite.

The other morning I came across the bridge a bit east of Rexville shortly after sunrise. The sky was hot pink and the mountains were a deep blueberry color. Just as I crested the bridge at mid-span, I looked out across the field in front of me. There must have been hundreds of Snow Geese (maybe even a thousand??)  hovering above the ground. It was like someone came by in a low-flying airplane and dumped out huge pieces of white confetti – and I arrived while all that confetti was still in the air. It was AMAZING. It literally took my breath away.

Between the sky and the mountains and the birds … it was all I could do to not miss the curve and land in the ditch.

Here’s what I think:

The Skagit Valley is gorgeous in Spring. We all know that. How can it not be with huge fields of daffodils, then tulips, then iris.

The Skagit Valley (and La Conner in particular) is gorgeous in the Summer. We all know that, too. Between the water and the boats and Mount Baker as a backdrop, it’s hard to find any place any prettier.

The Skagit Valley is gorgeous in the Fall. The fields are full of crops, and the yellows and golds against red barns and blue mountains are photo-worthy.

But WINTER. Man, Winter is simply stunning. It’s beyond photo-worthy. It’s just indescribably magical.

I am so glad I live here, and that I get to experience all four seasons – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. But right now I feel so lucky … no, actually I feel privileged … to share this amazing valley during wintertime with the Snow Geese and the Trumpeter Swans.

Here’s the thing.

It’s so easy to take for granted what we see every day. Whether you see Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans out your window, or maybe a bare tree with a few red berries on it – don’t take what you see for granted. Take five seconds and marvel at how beautiful and colorful our world really is.

p.s. If you haven’t ever seen our winter bird population, I have it on good authority that they’ll be here from now (it’s January as I write this) until late winter. You really should come see the show.



Posted by: thelctownie | December 7, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I love this town. I love everything about it. The past month has shown me what a really amazing place it is, and I am so proud that I get to be a part of it. And thankful that I live where I live.

The first thing I discovered, back in November, is Arts Alive! … a 3-day event celebrating everything from fine art to fiber art, and from jewelry to woodworking and sculpture. There is art – and there are artists – all over this tiny little town. And then there are art lovers who have come to La Conner from every corner of the Northwest – and beyond. I had the great fortune to be on the other side of this event as a volunteer, and got to talk to not only artists like Maggie Wilder from Gallery Cygnus, Ann Schreivogl and Eve McCauley, but to people who had come to La Conner because they know and love La Conner as a true ‘arts community’.

Sunflower Pie by Ann Schreivogl

I can barely draw a decent stick-figure – which makes me doubly appreciative of the talented artists who were in attendance. I just kept saying “Oh wow.” over and over again. If you love art, then this is an event worthy of your time.  Put it on your calendar right now – it’s the first full weekend of November in 2012.

Then just this past weekend I got to attend my first-ever La Conner community tree-lighting party in Gilkey Square. What a hoot! I had an absolute blast. There were carolers, kids and dog everywhere (how can you not love a toddler in her holiday finest, or dogs kept warm by their festive jackets), generations of families and groups of people who had come to La Conner to experience small-town holiday spirit.

Frosting and decorations are the best part of the cookie ...

Even our dogs get into the holiday spirit.

We also had tables of beautifully decorated cookies (thanks, Culinary Arts students!), cocoa, and Santa who arrived in a fire truck. And a tree that is nothing short of fabulous. I think my favorite part was when Santa asked the kids in the crowd to come get a handful of fairy dust from his bag and to toss it into the air in order to turn the tree-lights on. I tell you – when those lights shined back in those kids’ eyes, it was nothing short of magical.

Next weekend, I’m going to the annual Boat Parade, which I cannot wait for. I’ve seen pictures of this, but it’s hard for me to imagine big boats and little boats, all decked out in holiday lights from bow to stern and from mast to halyard, casting a glow on the channel. My friend Kate told me she’s picked out a perfect vantage point and is bringing a picnic of wine, bread and cheese. I think that’s a fabulous idea – but I’m going one step further and tuck into one of my favorite restaurants after the parade for a bite of dinner and something warm to drink.

Oh, and then I’m going to the Community Christmas Concert on December 11 in Maple Hall. I hear it’s all local talent – and that we have a lot of very talented musicians in town. How cool is that.

Hand-felted bag / Step Outside

And in between all this fun, I’ve been gift-shopping locally this year (big-box stores are OFF my list…) and have found the most amazing gifts for my family and friends. I can’t wait for them to open their packages and say something like “Oh, cool … where did you find this?” And I get to say, “La Conner, of course.”

Did I say I love this town? Good. Because I really do.

Posted by: thelctownie | November 5, 2011

Holy Halloween, Batman!

October 31 … otherwise known as Halloween to every kid in America… is already a pretty fun day. First there’s the hunt for the perfect costume, then the parties, then the trick-or-treating in the evening. What’s more fun than dressing up, being somebody (or some – thing!) else for a day, and getting a bucket of candy. Most of us have memories of Halloween’s past – I remember the year I was the beatnik – and tripped on the curb, tore my cool-daddy black tights in the knee, and skinned both hands.

Halloween was pretty fun when I was a kid. But it was a neighborhood affair.

Halloween in La Conner is an entire town affair. I did not know that. I’ve never been in La Conner for Halloween before. It is just a whole lot of fun!

Jackie Stone

First off, there’s a parade. And what kid doesn’t like being in a parade. Not only that, but lots of people besides kids dress up for the parade. People from town. People with cute dogs. The parents of the kids. The Grandparents of kids. It’s amazing!

They start at one end of town and walk all the way to the other end. Everyone waves to the parade viewers as they pass by, and there is lots of picture-taking going on.

The KISS Girls

Then, once they get to the end of the street, they come back. But they don’t just parade back, they stop at the businesses and trick-or-treat along the way.  How cool is that? In many cases, the business owners are also dressed up, which makes it twice as much fun.

Glenda the Good Witch keeping an eye on Nasty Jack

I must admit, I was not dressed up in costume (which is probably just as well). What I was doing, however, was visiting with some of our business owners, chatting with parents and kids I know, and patting the occasional costumed dog on the head.

I also visited with 4 lovely women who absolutely made my day. Turns out they are from down south (that would be Everett, Snohomish and Mukilteo) and wanted to come to La Conner for a day to do some shopping and have lunch.

Roxy, Claudia, Binky and Dawn - Halloween Parade Watchers

One of them happened to look on the Chamber of Commerce website and noticed that on Halloween there is a parade. And who doesn’t love a parade?!

So they came specifically on Halloween, because they could only imagine how fun a small-town Halloween parade might be. Did our parade live up to their expectations? You bet. One of them said, “This was SO MUCH FUN. We’ll be back again in the spring, but we’re definitely coming back next year for Halloween. Nobody where we live has a Halloween Parade … this just makes La Conner even more special than it already is.” Ladies – you absolutely made my day. This is a special place. It’s a very, very special place.

Our Favorite Fairy

So here’s the bottom line: everyone always thinks of La Conner in spring and summer. As they should. We have flowers and water and mountains and it’s gorgeous. But there are way more things to do here – in any given month – than most people realize. Whether it’s spring or summer, or fall or winter – this little town is an awful lot of fun.

As for next year’s Halloween parade? Hmm. I’m already thinking about a costume. If you want to be in our parade as well, or just think watching a town Halloween parade would be a kick, come share in the fun. Wednesday, October 31, 2012. See you then.

Posted by: thelctownie | October 5, 2011

Tiny Town | Big Art

I’ve lived in La Conner since 2004. I’ve been coming to La Conner since 1986. And I have a confession to make. I had no idea of the breadth and the depth of the arts community we have here. No. Idea.

I knew we had 3 museums, and I knew we had several galleries, and I have heard that at least one famous artsy person lives here (I have also heard that we have more than one, but as of yet I’ve not met any of them). I’ve been to an occasional concert at Maple Hall. I knew that the museums had exhibits. And I was at Seeds one night when they had live music in the bar.

But here’s what I’ve learned in the past week, that has me not only scratching my head at what clearly was not on my radar, but finds me in awe of how much this little town loves their art (regardless of whether it’s fine art, quilt art, visual art, musical art, theater art, costume art or culinary art).

In October alone, I count nearly 30 things going on. Everything from two concerts in Maple Hall to brand new exhibits at all three museums; from wine tastings to live music and dinner theater, and from a book reading (and accompanying Zombie Walk) to a Halloween parade. You can’t possibly be bored here in October. It’s. Not. Possible.

Here’s a link to the Chamber of Commerce Calendar of Events – be sure to click on the details for each event because even the write-ups are simply wonderful.

Many of you reading this blog visit La Conner only in the spring for tulips, or in the summer during boating season. But you’re missing out! Not only is it gorgeous here right now, but there are fewer people and there is less traffic. The restaurants nearly always have a table open and are serving amazingly yummy dishes made from local produce, the shopkeepers have stocked up on all sorts of wonderful things for your early holiday shopping, and the Inns and Lodge have cozy fires in their fireplaces and cider on the sideboards.

Even the vibe this time of year is a bit more … um … I guess you’d call it ‘laid back’. If you like being part of the local scene, this is what you’re looking for.

And here’s the thing –  if you’re at all interested in the art scene (that’s fine art, quilt art, visual art, musical art, theater art, costume art or culinary art), the choices you have are out of this world. This is a tiny town, folks – and the quality of the art here is outstanding.

This is a fabulous time of year to come hang out in La Conner – grab your fleece and come on over. We’ll all be by a fire, sipping a glass of wine and noshing on spiced pumpkin seeds (from local pumpkins, of course!). Hope to see you soon.

p.s. If you can’t come in October but early November is free for you, Arts Alive! is one of our annual signature arts events. You can find more details by clicking on the Chamber of Commerce link above.

Posted by: thelctownie | September 8, 2011

Currents and Tides and Docks, Oh My!

My husband and I are the owners of a 30’ sailboat. Like many boating couples, the captain of our boat grew up on a boat. He learned how to start, stop, dock, maneuver in tight quarters, set an anchor, snag a buoy, handle strong currents and tide changes – all the things that boaters need to know how to do.

I, on the other hand, fell in love with boating from a passenger’s point of view. The sun on my face, a beverage in my hand, and someone else doing all of the work. That’s my kind of boating.

I’ve come a long way since we bought our very own boat. While I’d still rather be nothing but a passenger, out of necessity I’ve learned enough to be a semi-competent first-mate. No, I haven’t yet learned to dock our boat. Nor have I gotten the hang of sailing in anything other than a gentle breeze (that would be a very gentle breeze…).

What I have discovered, however, is that I have become somewhat of an expert in critiquing other boaters. I admire those boating families who seem to have it all together – who know exactly what they are doing and work together as a finely tuned team. And I find great amusement in watching boaters who – like us – sometimes find themselves in a bit of a pickle.

As an example – not long ago we were sitting on the deck at the La Conner Tavern (fondly known to the locals as ‘the Tav’) eating their famously delicious fish and chips, watching the Swinomish Channel moving along at pretty good clip. When you’re on your boat – in the channel – it’s difficult to really notice how fast the water moves. But watching it from land you begin to understand the challenges presented by fast-moving water.

On this particular late summer evening, a small powerboat with several young men (who were clearly on vacation) came down the channel, heading for a spot on the dock outside the Tav’s windows. Full of bravado (and we presumed beer), they attempted to dock their boat. Several times, in fact. At first they laughed and tried again. But each time they got close, and revved up their engine to force their boat into the dock, the current would snag the boat and push them away. With each try they got madder. They yelled at each other and each took a turn at trying to dock. And then they noticed all of us, calmly munching on our dinners – watching them fight the current. After realizing we were all enjoying watching their antics, they turned their boat around and headed back up the channel without ever setting foot on the dock.

Within about 3 minutes of their departure, a lovely little boat came down the channel, headed for the same spot on the dock. But this boater knew his channel. He simply overshot the spot by about 30 feet, swung his boat around, and then let his boat catch the current and quietly drift right into the spot on the dock.

No fuss, no muss, thank-you-very-much Mrs. Magillicutty. It was the most beautiful feat of docking I had ever seen. Whereupon everyone at the Tav looked around, smiled at each other, nodded in approval, and went back to eating.

As a semi-competent boating critic, I chuckled over the powerboat full of young men. I also swooned over the local boater who so easily maneuvered the channel to dock his little boat in about 60-seconds flat. Because, you see, I’m a much better critic than I am a boater. Or was … until I realized that I’d never be able to dock like that. Never-ever.

But what was really struck a chord with me was what happened next. The gentleman who so gracefully docked his boat then came up the ramp and walked into the Tav, waved to some friends and then sat down with them at the table next to us. He crossed one long leg over the other, folded his hands on his lap and acted as if he’d just parked a Volkswagen Bug in a 40’ garage.

Several other diners who had witnessed this docking feat smiled and sheepishly mentioned to him that they always found docking on the Swinomish Channel just a bit intimidating … whereupon he spent the next 30 minutes offering terrific tips for successfully docking in the channel, regardless of how the current is running.

Here’s what struck me about that evening:

Unlike a lot of big cities that I’ve lived in or visited, and regardless of whether you’re a Townie like me, or a Tourist looking for the expertise of a long-time local, in La Conner there is always someone who is willing to share their knowledge with you.

Whether it’s learning how to maneuver the channel in your boat, how to pick out fresh corn at a roadside stand, or learning the best ways to cook your recently caught crab so it melts in your mouth … all you need to do is ask a local.

And in my book, that’s pretty darn awesome.

Posted by: thelctownie | August 25, 2011

Two Wheels, Four Bikes and Big Smiles

A couple of weeks ago I was in downtown La Conner on an absolutely gorgeous summer day, running some errands and doing a little people-watching. When you’re getting to know your community better … like I am … it’s fun to just hang out in town and watch what goes on. It’s also great fun to stop and meet people who are clearly visiting from somewhere other than around the corner or down the street.

Which brings me to the Bennett family. When I met them, they were getting ready to get back on their bikes after spending an afternoon in town. I think they were a bit surprised that I would just casually walk up to them, introduce myself, and start asking them lots of questions – but they were gracious enough to visit for a few minutes.

Clayton, Steve, Karen and Kate Bennett

Not only did they look like visitors (it was pretty obvious by the bikes and the shopping bag), but they looked like serious bicyclists! Helmets? Check. Cool shirts with groovy graphics? Check. Bike shorts? Got ‘em. Oh, and the sunglasses. Awesome. The Bennett family looks the part.

And it turns out they should, because they are the real deal. They’re from Coquitlam, B.C. and come down every year for a biking vacation. This year they were staying at Bay View State Park and had ridden into town to do a little shopping. This is what Karen Bennett says about their annual bike trip:

“Our 17 mile cycle trip from Bay View State Park to La Conner has become an annual family tradition for the past 4 years and we are getting faster now that the kids are 10 and 12. We ride along the path at Padilla Bay, enjoying the birds and the scenery. We then ride along the bike path of the La Conner Whitney Road into La Conner, saying hello to the cows and horses along the way. Lunch is our first stop on the patio overlooking the Swinomish Channel. This year it was fun to watch the canoe races. We always browse the shops, making a stop at the Olive Shoppe for specialty mustard and the kids like checking out what is new at Bears ‘n Friends. After a visit to the candy shop, we start our cycle trip back. We stop at the berry farm barn near Route 20 for ice cream and get back to Bay View for cocktail hour! We love the friendliness of La Conner, the interesting shops and the family fun we have with our little adventure every year! Looking forward to next year.”

Curious to find out more about biking in and around La Conner, I found all sorts of resources for those of us who would like to do a bit more biking/exploring.

For a quick reference, here are some great rides and some cool resources to get you out on your bike.


  • La Conner to the Rexville Grocery for breakfast. (Did you know that Rexville Grocery has a breakfast worthy of a Sunset magazine write-up? How cool is that!)
  • La Conner to Padilla Bay and Bay View State Park (the Bennett’s trip).
  • La Conner to Anacortes, via Reservation Road, Marches Point Road and the Tommy Thompson Trail.
  • La Conner to Christianson’s Nursery (take a picnic and stretch out on the School House lawn – it’s particularly lovely this time of year).


  • On the right sidebar of this blog – in the Everything You Want To Know About La Conner section, is a link to very detailed information on biking in Skagit County.
  • Skagit Tourism has a terrific website with all sorts of information – including a dedicated bicycling page.
  • Skagit Bicycle Club also has a really nice website which includes monthly calendars of hosted rides for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
  • Download the Skagit County Bicycle Tour Routes map – which has lots of information on great rides in and around Skagit County.

Take it from the Bennett family, and all of the other riders you see out and about enjoying our gorgeous valley. Biking in and around La Conner is a whole lot of fun.

Let’s go for a ride (eat fish and chips), bike some more (eat fresh berries), bike some more (eat ice cream) and then bike some more to work off all of the extra calories we’ve eaten.

I think that sounds like a fabulous plan.

Posted by: thelctownie | August 8, 2011

Lost: One Birthday Gift / Found: Amazing Customer Service

Joy Barton

I want to share a letter with you, and then a bit more about the story – because this is the kind of story that makes us locals nod our heads in understanding, and not-so-locals perhaps understand a bit better why we are such a special community.

Here is the letter – sent from Joy Barton, who lives in Seattle, WA to Marci Plank, La Conner Chamber of Commerce Executive Director :



I’d like to tell you a great story. I love La Conner and went up for a day by myself on June 25th.  I looked in all the shops for the perfect birthday gift for my daughter and, toward the end of the day, I found a necklace and earring set in the Cottons store. I was tired and ready to ‘just go home’. I stopped at one more store near my car and tried on a few things.

When I got home I realized I had left my package in the last store. I was so disappointed. I couldn’t even remember the store’s name. After a few days, I decided I would try to recover the jewelry and so I called Cottons. I paid with cash, so all I could do was describe what I bought and more importantly, try to figure out where I went next!

The woman on the phone was very patient and walked up the block with me mentally, until we came to the only store she could imagine I had stopped at – the Country Lady. I thanked her and gave the County Lady a call.

The woman at the Country Lady did have the package I left! When I told her it was a gift for my daughter she asked when her birthday was. When I said  “July 2nd”, she replied “If I put it in the mail this afternoon, you should get it on time”. Sure enough, the package arrived the day before her birthday. I left the mailing paper on it and told my daughter the story as she was opening it.

The woman had even wrapped the box in some festive paper!

I sent a note to the Country Lady today, and I thought it would be good for the Chamber to know the story too.

Sincerely, Joy Barton


When I read that story I felt like we all needed to know the ‘rest of the story’ because there are amazingly caring shopkeepers involved who absolutely understand the meaning of providing incredible customer service.

Today I stopped by The Country Lady and chatted with Jan McGehee and Sharon Busony. They are as lovely and kind-hearted and wonderful as Joy (the missing-gift letter-writer) thinks they are. In between helping a lot of happy and very busy shoppers, they found a few minutes to talk to me about Joy’s missing birthday gift. I asked Jan about sending the gift to Joy, mentioning that not many store owners would go to all that trouble. Jan simply said, “Why wouldn’t they? It didn’t take all that much extra time, and it was the right thing to do.” And that, plain and simple, is why people love shopping in La Conner. Our shopkeepers get it. They know that taking care of customers comes back to them one-hundred-fold. Good karma makes for even more good karma.

Jan McGehee

Joy was so thankful, she even sent Jan money to cover the postage. Which Jan says was completely unnecessary – but she understands how Joy might have felt. A birthday gift for someone special is important … especially when it’s gone missing, then found, then mailed, then opened, then cherished because there’s a wonderful story that goes along with the gift giving.

As to the’ rest of the story’ – it turns out that the staff from Cottons took Joy’s initial call and helped her figure out where she might have left her package. After visiting with Jan and Sharon I walked up the street Cottons. It was also full of shoppers as well … which really isn’t surprising at all … given the caliber of shops we have here in La Conner! I can easily imagine it was a very busy day the day Joy called Cottons; I also can imagine a very caring staff member trying to assist customers, while standing in the doorway looking up and down the street, helping Joy determine where she had stopped last and perhaps left her birthday gift.

Why do I think this is such a neat story? Well, here’s the bottom line for me: (You will find that I often have a ‘bottom line’ to my posts. They are like my version of an Aesop’s Fables with a moral at the end of the story. They are, in effect, my way of getting to the point of my post.) I shop in La Conner.  And yes, I shop elsewhere in the Skagit Valley. But stories like this remind me that in La Conner the shopkeepers really do care about their customers. They go out of their way – no, they go WAY out of their way – simply because it’s the right thing to do. That’s very cool in my book.  

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a birthday gift, like Joy was, you’re ready to shop for something special for yourself, or you’re looking for something to do for a couple of hours on a gorgeous summer afternoon – come visit La Conner and meet our fabulous shopkeepers.

Like Joy, you’ll be very glad you did! (But please keep track of your packages – you’ll have a lot less stress to deal with if they go home with you.)    

Posted by: thelctownie | July 13, 2011

The Walkers

One of the great things about small communities is that on any given day you’re likely to see the same people out and about. When I was growing up I lived in a small town, and vividly remember the man who wore striped overalls and a straw hat, while riding his blue Schwinn bike all over town. When it was cold outside he had a shirt underneath. When it was hot outside his bare arms kept him cool. He was just as much a part of our community as the local park, or the library, or the Dairy Queen. I never knew his name, but I always smiled when I would see him.

I was thinking about him not long ago – and how when you get to know a community and its residents, you build a sort of expectation around seeing the same people all the time. You may not know their names, but there they are … every day … reminding you that a community is about the people who live in it.

That’s where Nina and Dick come in. Every day on my drive to work I pass a couple who are out walking. Nearly every morning I see them. This time of year (summer) they have on light-weight jackets and stroll along at a pretty good clip … always holding hands. He wears a hat – sitting slightly askew on his head – and looking very much like he belongs in the movies. She has a glow in her cheeks and a smile that you can’t help but fall in love with. In winter they wear gloves and stocking caps – but are still out there walking along, holding hands.

Seeing them every morning makes my day a whole lot brighter.

Every day as I pass them, I wonder who they are. Have they always lived in La Conner? Did they move here from somewhere else? Even though I don’t know them, it is such a comfort to drive down the street and see them out for their morning walk. Several months ago I decided that their last name was Walker. At least that’s what I decided to call them. Because … well, because … every morning when I see them they are out walking. I drive by them and say to myself, “Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Walker.” Sounds sort of silly, but it just seems to fit.

In any event, last week I decided I needed to find out more. I wanted the rest of their story. So this morning instead of driving by, I pulled off the road, got out of my car, and walked up the street to meet them.

I can only imagine what they thought! Here they are, happily walking along when some strange woman walks toward them with a big smile on her face – as if she has known them forever. “Hello!” I say. “You don’t know me, but I write a blog (that’s an article) for the La Conner Chamber of Commerce. I was wondering if you would be willing to visit with me for a few minutes sometime.” They – a bit taken back but gracious none the less – agree to talk to me later in the day.

Our first meeting was … shall we say … a bit strange. None the less, I was excited to find out more about them. They’re Mr. and Mrs. Walker! They make me smile every day!

After work this afternoon I stopped by their house and had a proper visit with them. First and foremost, I learned that their last name is not Walker. It’s Dortsen. They are Nina and Dick Dortsen. And they are just as charming as I thought they would be. I also learned that they have lived in La Conner for 35 years, first for 15 years on their beautiful boat the Nina D, then in their house in town.

When I asked them how far they walk every day Nina knew exactly how far it is. It’s 3 miles, broken into 3 trips. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon (to the library and the post office), then once in the evening. I asked them if one of them had to be the ‘prodder’ for the other to go walking. They both smiled at each other and simply said, “No, it’s just something we do together.” Nina added that they walk because it keeps them going. They have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to keep up with. Walking helps them do that. She also mentioned that in a small town it’s easy to notice the things that change when you walk a lot. I suspect that she and Dick know every rose-bush, and dog-on-a-porch, and new-curtains-in-windows better than anyone else in town.

So here’s what I think. I think the best part of living in a small community like La Conner is people like Nina and Dick. They warm our hearts, they bring a smile to our face every day as we see them out and about, and they remind us that even if we don’t know everyone personally, we know they belong here with the rest of us. They’re part of who we are as a community … and we are better for it.

And that’s exactly how it should be.


Posted by: thelctownie | July 1, 2011

Hats, Boots and Hoopla

Clearly I am behind the times here in La Conner. My head is in the sand. I am too much work and not enough play. I am – as my Grandmother would say – a girl in need of a party hat. (Her name was Elise Mersereau; she was a Seattle beauty with a twinkle in her eye and a dandy box of dress-up hats.)

I’ve just read the La Conner Chamber of Commerce newsletter, thinking that perhaps I would catch up on a bit of town news and see if there was anything interesting that I should know more about.

Well, this girl not only needs a party hat, she needs to dust off her riding boots, pull out her college Shakespeare CliffsNotes, and hang the red, white and blue bunting on the porch. And that’s just for July!

Here’s a quick rundown of what I’m going to try to accomplish in July:

Celebrate July 4th in the style suited to the Best Tiny Town in Washington. From the community parade (starting at 11:30am), to the La Conner Fire Boat display on the channel, to the family fun at Pioneer Park (including face painting, games, and a rollicking watermelon eating contest), you’ll not find a more quintessential July 4th celebration anywhere.

Morning Pasture by Kathleen Ball

Lasso a painted cow (well, okay, the cow is wood and doesn’t move very fast) – which might just land me a snazzy piece of art – at the 4th Annual Cash Cow Art event, sponsored by our local Kiwanis Club. Each year features a different farmland animal theme and is an interpretation of the animal in any media. The first year was the cow, the 2nd year was the chicken, the 3rdyear was the pig and this year is the turkey (that’s a whole other story, for another blog). I have it on good authority that if an artist has a particular affinity to a previous year’s farmland animal, they can use that animal in their art each year … meaning that this year you might not just see turkey art while out and about in town. Since the beginning of June, 30 artists have been exhibiting their work in local shops all over town. The event culminates with a terrific art auction at 3pm on July 9th at the La Conner Fruit and Produce Market. Proceeds benefit the La Conner Kiwanis Club’s scholarship program. Big clap for these folks who are truly committed to our local kids.

Revel in some Shakespeare by attending either As You Like It (a madcap story of love and intrigue) or Richard III (a dangerous story of deceit and power), presented by Shakespeare Northwest at their new Rexville Blackrock Amphitheatre. If, like me, you’ve never experienced Shakespeare outside (or even inside for that matter!) – I’m told it’s as good as it gets in terms of summertime entertainment. I cannot wait to do this!

Picnic in a grassy field as I root for my favorite horses (oh, and riders) during the Pacific Northwest Polo Association’s Governor’s Cup on July 30 & 31. If you’ve not experienced a live Polo match before – this is a fabulous introduction to the sport. While there, look around for local photographer John Holtman, who captures the spirit of horse and rider in stunningly beautiful photography. You’ll find the fast action at George Dill’s farm along La Conner-Whitney Road. Now – where are those boots of mine, and I wonder how dusty they really are…

Experience history, culture and tradition during Canoe Journey 2011, July 25-31. Hosted by the Swinomish Tribal Indian Community, nearly 130 canoes from the Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand, Oregon, and California will land along the Swinomish Channel. If you haven’t yet taken the time to see the ‘cedar hat’ pavilions along the channel, come take a look. They are absolutely gorgeous. And if you’re a boater on our waters that week, keep an eye out for these truly magnificent canoes and their graceful paddlers … offer them a wave of support, then slow down and throw no wake, please.

I don’t know about your plans for July, but I know I’ve got a lot of playin’ to do. And I haven’t even looked at my options for August. Why not take advantage of some of the amazing events we have for you (heck, take advantage of all of them!) – whether you’re an aspiring Townie like me or a tourist just begging for a reason to come visit our gorgeous valley.

Oh, and bring your party hat. You’ll fit right in.  

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