Wenatchee is seriously a-buzz this time of year. It is literally a-buzz with all the worker bees buzzing around pollenizing the apple blossoms... so we have lots of beautiful apples in the Fall. We were witness to a particularly long and beautiful bloom period this year because of an unusually warm spell in the early Spring... then it turned cool so the blossoms lasted longer (and, therefore, the pollenization period). Besides the apple blossoms, the dogwoods were particularly fabulous this year!
Wenatchee touts itself as the Apple Capital of the World, although (these days) trees are being cut down in order to "plant" houses. Apple farmers have so much worldwide competition it is getting more and more difficult to make a profit, so they are selling their land for development. The housing market, unlike the apple market, is hot hot hot. It is a sellers market and it's not uncommon for homes to have multiple offers within a day or two of listing... particularly those in the "affordable housing" category (under $135,000). It is incredible to watch the housing developments going in. Behind where I live there were 21 rental units completed recently (3 tri-plexes and 3 four-plexes). Today, as I write, there are 3 four-plexes being constructed across the street from my house. Besides that, there are hundreds and hundreds of new single family homes being built, in every price range.
Also, lots of grapes are being planted (in outlying areas) and, while new wineries are popping up all over the place, fruit growers and warehouses are going out of business. Don't get me wrong, apples (and pears and cherries) are still big business here... but the economic climate has definitely changed.
For those of you unfamiliar with Wenatchee (in the geographic center of Washington State), we have a very diverse economy with Agriculture, Hydroelectric power production, Aluminum production, medical services and government agencies being the major employers. We also have a big tourist industry because of the vast array of recreational opportunities and our tremendous climate.... around 300 days of sunshine a year. I read somewhere that there are over 100 campgrounds within a 75 mile radius of Wenatchee. That means we have as many campgrounds as Palm Springs has golf courses. Ummm. We also host lots of conventions and sporting tournaments.
Figuratively speaking, the town is a-buzz with the grand finale of the 2005 Apple Blossom Festival coming to a climax this Saturday with the Grand Parade. The big parade is always the first Saturday of May, but the Apple Blossom festivities officially start 10 days earlier (on a Thursday). We have a "Kids Parade" the first Saturday. We have dozens of events, including a Ridge to River Relay that draws hundreds of teams from throughout the State and a few from elsewhere. The "Ridge" is Mission Ridge, our local ski area, which is just 12 miles south of Wenatchee. Mission Ridge is a wonderful ski area, with nice dry snow and runs to accommodate the beginners and expert skiers. I hear reumors that we're going to get a new high speed quad chair sometime in the near future.
The "River" is the mighty Columbia River that splits Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. But, the "River" also refers to the Wenatchee River where the rafting leg of the relay takes place. The race begins with a ski leg at Mission Ridge, moves to a running race down from the mountain, to a bicycle race to Cashmere (about 6 miles west) and into the last leg, which is the canoeing coming down the Wenatchee River and ending up in the Columbia River at Riverfront Park. It's quite the event and you don't want to be trying to get around town when it's going on. Mostly the relay is done with teams but there are a few "iron" entrants that do the entire race alone. These are macho, masochistic people who have no concept of "moderation"... or perhaps I'm just jealous because I'm such a wimp. I can hit a golf ball 240 yards, though. :-)
Another big event is the "Classy Chassis" Parade this coming Friday night, where you can see hundreds of old classic cars driving down Grant Road and Valley Mall Parkway in East Wenatchee. My husband owns two classic cars... a 1972 Buick Riviera and a 1972 Buick Centurion convertible ( originally owned by ex-governor Albert Rosselini). There have been years when we've entered both cars in the parade and others we've just entered one. This is the first year we have not entered a car. It's time to become spectators.
Throughout the 10 days of festivities, there is a Food Fair on the courthouse lawn (a very big lawn), where they set up a stage and arrange lots and lots of entertainment. The food at the Food Fair costs way too much, but you've gotta do it a least once. My husband and I went with another couple last Friday night. We bought 2 corndogs (that weren't very good) and one lemonade and the bill was $12. On top of that we had to buy a funnel cake, which was another $5. For $17 dollars we could have both gone to the Royal Fork buffet and had an all-you-can eat dinner (of real food), which includes all the drinks and desserts you want. But, of course, it wouldn't have been the same... so we do the Food Fair once each year, even though it's not good for us or our wallets.
The last Friday and Saturday nights (of the festival) are cruising nights on Wenatchee Avenue. It is, quite literally, bumper to bumper traffic on "the avenue" for well over a mile. It's always interesting to read the "Police Blotter" the following week to see how many disorderly conduct and illegal possession arrests were made.
I'll check back in a few days and let you know how it goes!