Oak Harbor Pioneer Way opens Saturday
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
October 14, 2011 · 10:41 AM
City officials, merchants and Swinomish tribal leaders will usher in a new chapter in downtown Oak Harbor’s history this weekend.
Pioneer Way Celebrates, a community event marking the street’s grand reopening and what many hope will be the start of a new era of economic prosperity, kicks off Saturday morning. And with activities ranging from fun runs and live music to 500 pounds of free barbecued salmon and Native American ceremonial dances, this is one party you won’t want to miss.
“I’m very excited,” said Kay Coolidge, owner of Popsies Gourmet Popcorn & Specialty Sweet Shop. “It’s time to celebrate.”
Coolidge is one of many merchants who are busy this week preparing for the big weekend. Some are working on the many various activities that will be offered while others, such as Coolidge, are busy preparing tasty treats.
Earlier this month, the SE Pioneer Way Improvement Project reached what’s referred to as “substantial completion.” In a nutshell, it means the majority of the $7.7 million project is finished and open for its intended use.
Oak Harbor officials had been planning a ribbon cutting to celebrate the occasion but the event has since mushroomed in scale, largely at the request and efforts of the downtown shop owners, said Rhonda Severns, Oak Harbor’s merchant liaison for the project.
“They wanted food, music and dancing in the street,” Severns said.
Well, thanks to their hard work, they’re getting that and a whole lot more. The day’s festivities will begin with a 5K fun-run at 10 a.m. and follow with a 1-mile walk/run at 10:30 a.m. A Poker Walk, an event in which customers visit stores and receive playing cards that could earn them a winning hand and prizes at the end of the day, will start at 11 a.m. as does sidewalk chalk art.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at noon and follow with a blessing of the street by a spiritual leader from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. The tribe will also be cooking enough salmon (500 pounds) to feed up to 1,000 people.
A host of businesses will also be offering food: Frasers Gourmet Hideaway will be providing Caesar salads, Yummies Eats and Treats is cooking up in the neighborhood of 500 cupcakes and Popsies is doing the same with bags of popcorn. And that’s just to name a few of the businesses.
“You could go on and on,” Severns said.
Dubbed the “Sweet Taste of Pioneer,” participating stores are offering cookies and other goodies for any customers who pay them a visit during the event. Severns said merchants want to pay back the community for its support during construction.
Sure to be one of the day’s highlights will be the cultural performances put on by Swinomish youth. Ranging in ages from 4 to 16, and dressed in traditional regalia, the group is known for its ceremonial dances. The performances begin at 2:30 p.m.
“I think that’s going to be the best part of the event,” Severns said.
Many merchants share her excitement. Bob Olson of Whidbey Wild Bird said he thinks it’s going to be “an utterly fantastic event” and believes it will be the start of a new beginning for downtown. More work needs to be done, but the street is beginning to look every bit as beautiful as people had hoped. It won’t be overnight, but people will start coming back, he said.
Jennifer Backmann, who opened West Coast Style Co. on Pioneer Way just last month, agreed. Once completed, she said she believes it will be “the most beautiful street” in town and certainly increase the appeal of the historic shopping district.
“I think it’s definitely going to rejuvenate Oak Harbor,” Backmann said. “It’s the cleanup project that needed to happen.”
7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Pioneer Way closed to traffic from Ely Street to Ireland Street.
10 a.m. — Start 5K Pioneer Way Fun Run. Start at corner of Dock and Fidalgo streets. Finish at corner of Pioneer Way and Dock Street. Day-of registrations available – see registration table located on Fidalgo Street.
10:30 a.m. — Start 1 Mile Fun Walk/Run. Start at corner of Pioneer Way and Dock Street. Finish at corner of Pioneer Way and Dock Street. Day-of registrations available – see registration table located on Fidalgo Street.
11a.m. to 4 p.m. — Poker Walk. Visit participating stores along Pioneer Way to receive a card. Drawing for prizes will be at 4:30 p.m.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Chalk Sidewalk Art (weather permitting). See Paint Your World.
Noon — Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Corner of Pioneer Way and Dock Street.
Noon to 2 p.m. — Salmon Barbecue with side dishes from downtown restaurants. Corner of Pioneer Way and Dock Street in GO Realty parking lot.
2 p.m. to 5 p.m. — Live Music throughout Pioneer Way.
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. — “Sweet Taste of Pioneer.” Visit participating stores along Pioneer Way for something sweet to eat.
2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Ceremonial Dances.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.