Like most things on Whidbey, the new Whidbey Island Harvest Festival on Oct. 3-6 encompasses way more than a day of frolicking fun. There’s plenty of that in store on Saturday and Sunday, but the two preceding days cover a wide range of workshops, seminars and classes that teach new skills, encourage exploration of the world around you, or foster community connections in creative ways.
Classes at the Whidbey Island fairgrounds on Thursday and Friday cover everything from building a clay oven to distilling whiskey, planting garlic, capturing local synergy, foraging wild edible plants and helping children manage stress through meaningful movement. There’s also a demonstration by the “Bat Lady” on Saturday — and yes, she’s bringing real bats.
Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, captures the heart of the classes and the full four days of festivities by saying:
“This festival, in its first year, is a glorious marriage of all things Whidbey.”
At least 36 classes keep the fairgrounds and community center hopping with activity before the weekend fun begins. Many of the classes are free, and some accept donations for charities. The more detailed workshops or those covering multiple days come with reasonable fees.
Some highlights of the free class offerings include:
Feed Bags to Totes by the “Crazy Bag Lady” of South Whidbey, aka Janet Harris. The Crazy Bag Lady will teach class participants to sew feed bags into quirky but practical reusable tote bags. Donations go to the Whidbey Homeless Coalition.
Meaningful Movement classes by Alisha Walsh from Meaningful Movement Dance and Yoga. She offers two opportunities to cultivate mind/body connection and to learn and practice yoga flow. One class is designed specifically for children ages 3-6 to discover breathing and relaxation exercises, yoga poses and how to improve concentration and strength. Games, stories and music accompany the non-competitive class, which is a preview of 12-week sessions offered at the new Soundview Center in Langley.
Garlic Planting 101 with Jane Brume from Skagit Farmer’s Supply. This is where to learn all the basics of growing garlic in your own garden. It also reveals the ancient history of garlic for not only flavoring food but also for health benefits such as anti-inflammatory elements and immunity boosting.
Spirit of Whidbey: Capturing Local Synergy with Mike Huffman from Whidbey Island Distillery. This class explores developing new ideas and new technologies as well as how local partnerships influence the uniqueness of products. It also reveals economic benefits to the local economy and to businesses such as Whidbey Island Distillery.
Additional free classes include, among many others, Edible Wild Plants with Karen Archabal from Langley Library, Whidbey Island: Apple Paradise by Daniel Vortis, owner of Muscle and Arm Farm, and Native Plants to Enhance Land and Sea presented by Kelsi Mottett of the Whidbey Conservation District.
Mother Earth takes center stage in multiple ways during the Harvest Festival, including at events focusing on the art and utility of clay. A class by Carla Jung on Friday unlocks the secrets of making a clay slab wall pocket, while two events with the associated Whidbey Island Grown Week feature the treasured clay pots from Cook on Clay in Coupeville.
A more intensive two-day clay oven workshop guides participants through the hands-on building of an outdoor clay oven with Eli Adadow, a Greenbank resident and creator of the Ancient Earth School of Natural Building. Utilizing knowledge culled from journeys to places such as Nepal, Tibet and Africa, Adadow goes step-by-step through the process of sculpting clay and sand into functional clay ovens for pizza, flatbreads, Italian calzones, focaccias and Argentinian empanadas.
Cooking, distilling and preserving classes weave through the program, with master culinary artists such as Trap Landry leading the way. Landry and his wife, Sonya Tsuchigane, are owners of the Asian-influenced Anthes Ferments restaurant on Second Street in Langley. They specialize in the art of fermented food and will be sharing some secrets in the kimchi preparation and fundamentals of fermentation class on Thursday morning.
Former home brewer and now master craft distiller Bob Brunjes has racked up a lot of know-how in his 82 years of life, and he’s dishing it out at a two-hour Friday demonstration at the Harvest Festival. As the “man behind the curtain” at Cultus Bay Distillery in Clinton, he shares his technical knowledge of what a craft distiller needs to know.
South Whidbey Tilth offers at least six multifaceted classes on growing food, while others delve into apple mania, native plants, foraging for wild mushrooms and herb-infused butter and oils. Artists lead explorations into the worlds of encaustic painting, photography, pastels and floral jewelry, while a stand-alone seminar imparts wisdom on “How to Build a Six-figure Business from Scratch.”
Some of the classes take place at the South Whidbey Community Center, which gives a jumpstart on Halloween planning. While taking a class at the center, you can drop off a Halloween costume at the family resource center to help the Readiness to Learn program provide costumes for families in October.
After soaking in the pool of eclectic island knowledge for two days, the weekend action romps and raves across the fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday. Round up family and friends for scarecrow building, free pumpkin decorating, live music, wine tasting and way more than your standard “fair food.” We’re talking local oysters from Saltwater Fish House, chowder by Braeburn Restaurant, delicacies from Anthes Ferments, and lamb sliders coasting in from Roaming Radish Catering.
A highlight of both Saturday and Sunday is screening of “The Biggest Little Farm,” the warm-hearted indie documentary film about a young couple’s journey transforming a 200-acre farm from monoculture to traditional farming methods.