During these insane times, we all have to find our own personal balance between safety and sanity. It can sometimes be a delicate balance. Too much safety, and we start to feel like the walls are closing in on us. But let go to preserve our sanity, and it’s easy to let down our guard in protecting ourselves from the risk of COVID 19 exposure. We have to each find that tipping point to know we did our best at staying healthy without completely stripping all joy out of our lives….because joy is as much an asset to our health as worry is a detriment.
Certain bits of news cause us to feel more bereft than others, often times when we are not even directly impacted. For example, that news came in the form of an email last April that Port Townsend’s beloved Wooden Boat Festival was canceled for the first time in forty-four years. When I first saw the notice, I thought “Too soon! Too overly cautious!” Now after five long months of this, I admire their defining the essence of the festival in saying, “The love we feel for our festival family is ultimately why we choose to stay apart.”
Even though I am halfway across the continent from Port Townsend this summer, it still has a strong hold on my heart. I have found days of pleasure attending the three day festival, first back in 2016 and again in 2019. It’s not only educational, but loads of fun at the same time. And a chance to live vicariously through those who not only live to sail boats, but are passionate enough about the craft to build them.
The good news, if there are any “armchair sailors” out there, for the first time ever due to COVID cancellations, the festival will be virtual this year. Next Saturday, September 12th, you can participate online by clicking this link to register. It’s only twenty bucks. Not only will you be helping support the endangered art of wooden boat building, but you will also be helping the small community of Port Townsend who prides itself on independent shops and non-chain restaurants, many whose livelihood depends so heavily on this annual festival. And if you can’t make it on Saturday, the online content will be available afterward.
The Wooden Boat Festival is not the only COVID casualty where Port Townsend is concerned, however. This town likes to have fun more than any community I have ever visited. Each month, there is some crazy festival taking place. I spent most of the fall season there last year, and had the opportunity to participate in two of their most fun events, both following on the heels of the Wooden Boat Festival. I got behind on the blog last year, and never got the photos and story posted. So here is a little retro update from Port Townsend Bay Kinetic Sculpture Race from last October.
The Kinetic Sculpture Race is a chance for all the locals and local-wannabes to demonstrate their amphibious creativity by building a human-powered craft that must ply the bay waters, plow the mud wallows of the fairgrounds, and slog through the sand dunes at Fort Worden and all the streets in between. The winner of the race is judged on mediocracy, therefore the challenge is to finish dead-middle of the race. On the final day, the participants take over the American Legion Hall for a giant party, the “Koronation Kostume Ball” where they crown the “Rose Hip Kween.” While I did not attend the “kostume ball,” I could hear the laughter a block away in the marina!
Sadly, what was to have been the 38th Annual race is cancelled this year due to the COVID. Let’s all hope this extra 12 month delay will allow the creators to use this off time to dream up new inventions to stay afloat and unstuck where “slow and steady” really does win the race!
Lastly, the third event to fall to COVID is the 21th Annual Port Townsend Film Festival. Last fall, I participated in the 20th Annual PTFF as a volunteer. Given that this venue can get a bit pricey for someone who enjoys going to the movie theater as much as I do, I signed up to volunteer for the festival. In exchange for three hours (one shift behind the bar pouring wine, and two as theater usher, taking tickets at the door and sweeping popcorn off the floor) I got a nice ball cap, commemorative pin, pass to four movies, membership to the PTFF including access to over 1,000 DVDs, and discounts at several local restaurants.
I loved all the movies I saw during the Port Townsend Film Festival, as well as the many films I saw at the Rose Theater, on average of two a week. But there were two that really stood out. One of my favorites was If You Could Read My Mind, a documentary about Gordon Lightfoot. I never was that much of a fan in my youth, associating him primarily with “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” But I enjoyed the movie so much, I bought several of his works on itunes, and realized he wrote many more favorites than I thought. He was such a great poetic lyricist, and also influential for many of my favorite artists back in the day. Google for an increduble “whos who” of artists who have recorded is songs. As Wikipedia states, “he is credited with helping to define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s.”
My second favorite was The Weight of Water, documentary about Erik Weihenmayer, an extraordinary athlete and adventurer who just happens to be blind. Weihenmayer is the first person without sight to summit Mt Everest, but in this documentary he rafts the most challenging rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Initially, I could not imagine the attraction of watching a blind man struggle through some of the toughest rapids in the USA, but following his journey heightened all my senses to the point that I could feel the rapids in my gut. Drones are not allowed in the National Park, so they sent a camera down the river on a 30 ft crane to film this intense action-packed ride down the river. It was a viscerally stimulating, visually stunning, inspiring film.
I look forward to seeing some of the feature films this coming year, as for the first time, the PTFF will also be virtual! Check out the offerings via this link where you can read a synopsis, watch the trailer, and buy a pass for this first ever, virtual PT Film Festival.
One of my absolute favorite things to do while in Port Townsend is visit The Rose, conglomerate of three theater venues to include the Rose, the Rosebud, and the glamorous Starlight Theater. They feature not only first run films, but also lots of indie and foreign films and many interesting documentaries, many featuring musical artists like Linda Rondstat and David Crosby.
But the Rose is in trouble. It’s been in operation since 1907, but has had to close due to the pandemic with no opening date in site. I can’t imagine what little Port Townsend would be without this cultural hub. The owner applied for many grants (While companies such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and the famous ShakeShack received funding from the PPP loans, the Rose application was denied.) So the owner, Rocky has had to start a GoFundMe campaign. If you love the arts, particularly small intimate historic theaters, and marvel that someone still uses REAL BUTTER on their popcorn, please consider throwing a little love their way. Save the Rose.
If you are like me, and have a little left over in the discretionary income budget these days due to all the lock downs and closures, please consider supporting the venues you love. The support you offer may just be the salvation they need to stay afloat.
“Old theatres are irreplaceable…I think a town’s old theatres are the sanctuary of its dreams.” – Roger Ebert