Submitted by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs
On February 24, 2015, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs was honored to receive a prestigious Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald and National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs President and State Commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs Lonnie Wangen presented the award to WDVA Director Alfie Alvarado-Ramos at a special Ceremony.
WDVA received the award in the category of Innovative State Programs with the Washington State Transition Model.
In May 2013, Governor lnslee signed Executive Order 13-01, Veteran Transition
Support, empowering the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs and Washington State to establish innovative strategies to help rebuild Washington’s economy, to return our veterans to full employment, and to help our veterans and their families effectively navigate the transition to civilian life.
The Executive Order directed the creation of the Washington State Military Transition Council and the Washington State Veteran Employee Resource Group. As a result of Military Transition Council’s development of the Washington State Transition Map, the Pacific Mountain Workforce Developmental Council received a $5.6 Million Department of Labor National Emergency Grant Camo2Commerce to serve 900 exiting service members at Joint Base Lewis McChord. And, the Veteran Employee Resource Group has helped to increase newly state hired veterans by 40% over the last year.
“The incredible work that takes place between your WDVA and our JBLM, military, corporate, not for profit and Veterans Services Organization partners is a national best practice,” said Alfie Alvarado-Ramos, WDVA director. “We have countless people who have broken through the silos and given of themselves and their organizations in order to take a community approach at a community issue, the successful transition our service members and their families.”
The Washington State Transition Model is a true collaboration of government, business and non-profit organizations, each focused on their role in helping service members successfully transition from active duty. Through the Military Transition Council, the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, Employment Security Department, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and other county-level organizations began collaborating with Joint Base Lewis McChord with its Army Air Force Career and Alumni Program process. Together, they are creating an integrated solution to help service members become employed Washington State residents as a part of their transition to Veteran status.
In 2014, WDVA received two Pillars of Excellence Awards. One in the category of Increasing Access to VA Benefits and Services with the WDVA/HCA Benefits Enhancement Program, and one in the category of Eliminating Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015 with the Ending Veterans Homelessness in Washington State Program.
Visit WDVA online to learn more about the Military Transition Council: www.dva.wa.gov.
Submitted by Thurston County Solid Waste
An innovative new program called Restaurant Rescue collected over 25 tons of edible surplus food from local restaurants and schools last year. This food was transported to the Thurston County Food Bank and repackaged into healthy meals for needy families.
The program is a unique partnership between government, non-profits, local businesses, schools and the Food Bank. The goals of the program are to prevent waste and to help end hunger in our community. The program was launched with support from Thurston County Solid Waste and the Washington State Department of Ecology. They helped the Food Bank acquire a refrigerated van and install a new kitchen. The Food Bank is now partnering with a diverse group of local restaurants and schools to collect prepared food donations and repack them into delicious meals for Food Bank clients. An overview of the program is available here.
Everyone wins with the Restaurant Rescue program. Restaurants and schools win by reducing the amount of food waste they have to pay to have collected for disposal or composting. The Food Bank wins by receiving a steady source of healthy food and needy families benefit by having access to nutritious, ready-to-eat Food Bank meals, a product not available in the past.
Schools making a difference
To ensure there is enough food for every student, school kitchens sometimes prepare food that doesn’t get served. U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines prevent a lot of this food from being reheated or served to students on another day. This can result in a lot of wasted food.
There are now 24 schools in Olympia and Tumwater participating in the Restaurant Rescue program. Last year they rescued more than 4.5 tons of food that was prepared for lunch but never served to students. The Food Bank is making creative use of this school food. For example, they cut up school hotdogs and combine them with beans rescued from a local restaurant to create a ready-to-eat meal.
Tons and tons of rescued food, oh my!
From the program’s early days in 2012 until the end of 2014, Restaurant Rescue has recovered a whopping 45 tons of prepared food. That’s a lot of edible food that would have gone to waste but is now consumed by community members that use the Food Bank. And, they’re just getting started. This year, Thurston County Solid Waste is applying for another grant to expand the program.
How you can help
There is a big need for volunteers to help at the Food Bank, including volunteers to work on the Restaurant Rescue program as it expands. If you are interested in volunteering or if you’re a restaurant that would like to join the program, contact Heather Sundean with the Thurston County Food Bank at 360-352-8597. Schools that would like more information may contact Peter Guttchen with Thurston County Solid Waste at 360-867-2283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Alyssa Ramsfield
For the seventh year, Olympia Pie Bakers Guild will be giving back to the community through their sweet tooth. Their annual Pie Fest takes place February 28 at the Olympia Center. It is the perfect opportunity to partake in a pie baking contest and take a bite out of hunger in Thurston County.
“When the guild formed, we wanted to do a fundraiser for Thurston County Food Bank. We wanted to give back and we love making pie,” explains guild member, Kathy Kinard. “Pie really brings people together so we thought turning it into a festival would be great for the community.”
Getting started wasn’t easy for the guild. “The first year was really hard,” says Kinard. “We just hoped someone would show up. Twenty five people entered the contest that year. Last year, nearly 200 pies came through our doors. It’s growing significantly every year.”
The Thurston County Food Bank and The Senior Nutrition Program both benefit from this event. “At the actual festival, three cans of food can be used to pay for one slice of pie. It’s this concept of trading food for food instead of using cash. All of the donated food goes to helping the food bank and nutrition program,” adds Kinard. “Every pie donated to the competition raises $50. That really adds up when you think about how that money can be used to feed a family for a week through the food bank.”
The focus of Pie Fest is on the pie baking competition. “Sixty people entered our pie baking contest last year and we expect even more this year,” explains Kinard. “There are rules involved in the baking and delivery of the pies, but anyone can take part with three age categories: youth, teen, and adult. There are ribbons and prizes given to winners of each category along with an overall grand prize winner for the event.”
“Bakers come from all over Western Washington,” continues Kinard. “While the apple pie has usually reigned supreme, it is fun to see the variety of pies and the stories from the bakers behind them.”
Judges from San Francisco Street Bakery, Lattin’s Cider Mill, and The Bearded Lady will select winners. Kinard adds that the mayor of Olympia has been a previous judge in the past as well. “He did declare the official dessert of Olympia pie,” she shares sweetly.
Pie Fest isn’t just about pie, it’s about bringing people together to support those in our community with the biggest need. “It’s a great way to bring the community together,” describes Kinard. “It leverages money for the community while coming together to have fun and eat amazing food. You don’t have to write a big check. You just have to bring canned food and take part in eating some incredible pies.”
For more information on this year’s Pie Fest, visit http://www.olypie.org/.
Olympia Pie Fest
February 28 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Olympia Center – 222 Columbia St NW
Olympia, Washington 98501
Submitted by FirstLight HomeCare
FirstLight HomeCare, a provider of quality, affordable, non-medical in-home care for adults, has launched Spring Assist, a program to prevent seniors from falling by offering to change smoke detectors batteries for free this spring.
Twice a year we are encouraged to change the batteries in our smoke detectors. Smoke detectors are typically located on the ceiling or high on the wall. Their location presents a fall hazard for the elderly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of three older adults suffers a fall each year. Among this same group, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.
“We are committed to helping seniors maintain their quality of life while remaining where they want to be – in their own homes,” said FirstLight HomeCare owner Sarah Lane. “As we age, some routine tasks become more difficult. We look at Spring Assist as an opportunity to help seniors by reducing their fall risk while keeping up with basic housekeeping such as changing the smoke detector batteries.”
Spring Assist is open to the first 100 requests for seniors age 65 and over.
To register for the program, please call FirstLight HomeCare at 360-489-1621 or email to email@example.com.
In addition to light housekeeping such as changing smoke detector batteries, FirstLight HomeCare services include bathing and hygiene, walking and mobility assistance, continence and toileting assistance and live-in services. FirstLight HomeCare offers complete companion and personal care services for seniors, new mothers, those recovering from surgery and others in need of assistance.
About FirstLight HomeCare
FirstLight HomeCare creates a new standard in non-medical, in-home care for seniors, new mothers, adults with disabilities and those recovering from illness, injury or surgery. FirstLight HomeCare’s leadership team offers more than 90 years of collective senior care experience and innovation to establish an emerging market leader in a fast-growing industry. FirstLight HomeCare has awarded more than 120 franchises across the country, which benefit from the industry’s leading, best-in-class franchise support. Follow company news on Twitter and Google Plus.
Photo by Olivia Richards, Avanti High School Intern to ThurstonTalk
Arbutus Folk School is located downtown Olympia on Fourth Avenue right across from Olympia City Hall. Originally, Arbutus was in a different spot but has recently moved to the their new, larger location. This is an amazing venue run by founder Stacey Waterman and through the help of volunteers from our own community. The school consists of classes run by Thurston area artists and open to the public to take. Arbutus has open mic nights, daily classes and many other activities that reflect the creativity so present in the Olympia atmosphere. Stop by their school downtown and sign up for one of their incredible courses. It’s a great opportunity and will not disappoint.
I just got back from spending some quality time with my best friend and her family in Richmond, Virginia. These photos were taken before a gigantic snow storm descended upon us and kept us locked inside the house for four days with two sick children. They are my people, I love them. But I am GLAD to be home!
I wish I could have spent more time exploring the area. So many beautiful old homes in like, a two block radius.
In other news, as per usual at this time of year, I am totally obsessed with the garden. I got my tree collards in the mail while I was gone, and I just ordered some jerusalem artichokes, and I’ve pretty much got all of my seeds. I’ll get my potato seed from my local urban farm center next month, and I think I’ll be all set.
I told myself this week that I would spend an hour each evening after I get home from work (if it’s not raining) preparing the garden beds by weeding. I ALWAYS forget this step when I am planning my weekend garden activities and what usually happens that I get outside and realized that I need to weed, which takes up most of my energy and time, and I poop out before I can get around to the real work. Tonight will be my first test, so I’ll let you know if I actually weeded or if I sat on my butt with a cocktail.
Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet
Meet Humvee. This loyal four-year-old black Labrador Retriever was given up by his owner who could no longer give him the love and care he deserves. He’s a volunteer favorite because he walks so well on a leash.
This big love of a dog is also good with other dogs, kids and even cats. Humvee knows his basic obedience commands and greets people he meets with a friendly handshake.
We have lots of great dogs and always need volunteers to join our crew. You can contact Adopt-A-Pet dog shelter on Jensen Road in Shelton at www.adoptapet-wa.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 432-3091.
By Rachel Thomson
It’s a concept Steve Cobb hopes will catch on among Thurston County diners. The 52-year old owner of the Mac N’ More restaurant in Lacey has spent the last few years integrating combinations of ingredients to one of America’s favorite comfort foods.
“I strive to serve original food, stuff you can’t get anywhere else in town,” Cobb said. “We’re taking mac and cheese, which is a traditional side dish and elevating it to a sophisticated main dish. We’re also slightly twisted, off the normal path and want to appeal to foodies out there who are looking for something interesting and daring.”
Mac N’ More has a menu featuring eight or nine macaroni and cheese skillets. Each dish begins with a portion of traditional elbow macaroni smothered in a smooth, creamy sauce with a slightly smoky undertone featuring a blend of four cheeses including Tillamook aged extra sharp cheddar. Various ingredients such as crayfish and green onions (The “Mudbug”), tender chicken strips coated in a tangy buffalo sauce and blue cheese (the “Buffalo”) are cooked along with the macaroni and cheese rather than simply tossed on top–a process Cobb says creates a marriage of flavor profiles. The dishes are finished with finely crushed corn flake crumbs to add a crunchy texture. Other combinations include “the loaded potato mac” (bacon, potatoes, green onion and cheddar cheese) and a mac and cheese meatloaf with a beef and pork meat blend, tomatoes, green onions and bacon. There’s also a “garden” option featuring spinach, black olives, tomatoes and green onions.
Customers also have the option of channeling their internal macaroni artist by creating unique combinations using a choice of ingredients such as pickled jalapenos, hard boiled eggs, avocados, mushrooms, pesto and chili beans. And of course, there’s always the original mac and cheese option with no mix-ins.
Cobb says with all the various ingredients and combinations on the menu, there are more than 1,000 different mac and cheese combinations.
Rise of the Mac
Steve Cobb and his wife had always dreamed of opening their own restaurant, but career and travel prevented them from doing so. His wife, Kati Cobb, was an Army soldier, and Cobb says he and his family lived as “nomads” for close to 26 years. Kati Cobb served three terms of deployment in Iraq. For a while, Steve was a stay-at home dad, and when his kids grew older, he held many positions in the restaurant industry and spent years refining his culinary skills before opening Mac N’ More in 2011.
Eventually, Kati’s military career brought them to the Pacific Northwest. Steve spent some time cooking for soldiers at JBLM. He studied some old recipes on Army recipe cards and made several dishes using their cooking techniques. He eventually rose to a shift leader, supervising eight cooks. Together they made thousands of meals for soldiers out in the field. Sometimes, they would make up to 1,000 meals per meal period. After leaving JBLM, he continued his career at Elyse’s Catering in Tumwater for two years, where he became head chef. He also spent some time at the Dome Deli on the capitol campus cooking mainly when the legislature was in session.
By then, Kati had returned from her deployments in Iraq, and had risen to the rank of a First Sergeant. After three deployments, Kati decided it was time to retire. It was then that she and Steve revisited their dream that was more than two decades in the making.
“We always said that once she retired, we could open our own place,” Steve said.
Opening a restaurant required a lot of planning, determination and research. Steve said he did a lot of market research about what kind of restaurant people would want in Thurston County that wasn’t already there. He even spent time polling random passersby on the street. He also did research on various types of restaurants throughout the county, in larger cities. One restaurant he came across was S’Mac restaurant in New York City, where the menu featured macaroni and cheese as a main dish. He says macaroni and cheese restaurants were popular in larger cities and areas near universities, mostly because it was often an affordable late-night bar food dish, and it appealed to mass populations because it was a traditional comfort food. He says the restaurants were often called “urban mac and cheese houses.”
“The concept was copied in big cities but not here,” Steve said. And so the idea for Mac N’ More was born.
Running Mac N’ More has been truly a family affair, Steve said.
His son, Theo, often helps cook in the kitchen. Sam, the couple’s daughter, who is a Washington State University business graduate helped develop the marketing plan. And his other daughter, Jordan has dreams of one day opening her own bakery and many of her baked treats are available at the restaurant.
“I’m all proud. They’re a chip off the old block,” he said of his children.
He also said he eventually wants to open five restaurants, including one in West Olympia and start offering gluten-free options.
Mac and cheese isn’t the only thing on the menu. It also features a wide selection of American diner fare. There’s fresh salads with crisp vegetables and homemade dressings such as champagne vinaigrette thousand island. There’s soup, chili, meatloaf, buttermilk marinated chicken breast and a variety of classic sandwiches and burgers served on a giant English muffin.
The food isn’t the only thing customers can enjoy. Each table is painted with a chalkboard friendly paint so you can draw on the tables with chalk while you eat.
9323 Martin Way in Lacey
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday
9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Follow the restaurant on Facebook.
By Gale Hemmann
As any avid reader knows, one of the great joys of reading is that it opens us up to new worlds. Through reading the voices of others, we develop empathy, as well as curiosity about what life is like beyond our own experiences.
In this spirit of celebrating both literacy and diversity, the Lacey Loves to Read initiative is bringing the award-winning author Kashmira Sheth to Lacey. Each year, this annual community-wide reading initiative selects a distinguished author to feature. Sheth will be visiting local schools and giving a public reading on Thursday, February 26 (see event details below). Sheth, the author of eight books, joins the distinguished ranks of past Lacey Loves to Read authors including poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Gary Soto, and the late children’s author Walter Dean Myers.
Now in its twelfth year, Lacey Loves to Read is a partnership of North Thurston Public Schools, the Lacey Timberland Library, the City of Lacey, and the Lacey Chamber of Commerce, along with many other local community partners and businesses.
Kashmira Sheth: Using Words to Connect Cultures
Kashmira Sheth has a fascinating life story. Sheth grew up in India, where she wrote poetry in Hindi and Gujarti as a girl. She moved to Ames, Iowa at age 17 to attend college and graduate school. She studied microbiology and spent many years working in the field before turning to writing full-time. As a mother, Sheth always enjoyed reading beloved children’s books to her own young daughters, inspiring her to write children’s stories.
Sheth’s books range from picture books to novels for teens. Her books each grapple with themes of family, compassion, and cross-cultural understanding. Each focuses on different aspects of Indian or Indian-American culture. The award-winning young adult novel “Blue Jasmine” tells the story of a girl who moves from India to Iowa (mirroring Sheth’s own life), while “Boys Without Names” gives names and faces to children in an Indian sweatshop. Though her books deal with substantial themes, the messages are always age-appropriate and the books are engaging to read. She uses her own experience and relatable characters to bring the stories to life.
Sheth is also a faculty member in the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. She currently lives with her husband and two daughters, Neha and Rupa, in Madison, Wisconsin.
About Lacey Loves to Read
Sheth’s upcoming author talk caps off a month of reading and literacy activities around Lacey. Each February, the Lacey Loves to Read initiative gets kids excited about reading through a variety of programs. Courtney Schrieve, Communications and Community Relations Director for North Thurston Public Schools, notes that the program has something to offer all ages of readers.
This year, youngsters participated in “Preschool Reads,” which brought well-known local figures to preschools to read Sheth’s picture book, Tiger in My Soup. Students in grades one through six also had the opportunity to join in “Read Around Lacey,” a program in which kids read a piece of their writing at local businesses and discuss how reading is important in the day-to-day jobs of the business owners. (Schrieve notes that both the kids and business owners found this to be a very empowering experience.) Some elementary school classes also had the opportunity to Skype with Sheth about her work.
Students were also encouraged to enter a bookmark contest, with the 24 winners’ art distributed around town (view the winning bookmarks here). And for teens, the Teen Short Story contest held by the Lacey Timberland Library gave them a chance to put their creativity on the page. The popular program reaches thousands of students each year, says Schrieve.
Schrieve says that Lacey Loves to Read is valuable to young readers not only because it celebrates reading but because it highlights themes of diversity, compassion, and understanding through literacy. Like past authors, Sheth is selected both for her accomplishments and her commitment to representing often-unheard voices in her work. North Thurston Public Schools serves a very diverse student base, and Schrieve notes it’s important that the authors selected reflect and celebrate the diversity of the community around us.
One truly special aspect of Lacey Loves to Read is how it reaches across so many sectors of the community to get kids reading. Lacey Timberland Library Manager Holly Paxson says, “As a librarian, my favorite thing about it is to see people in our community get excited about reading. A month-long celebration of reading, writing, and literacy is exactly the kind of event we love to be a part of! We’re especially happy to be able to provide a place for our home and alternatively-schooled students to participate in activities like the bookmark contest, the teen short story contest, and Read Around Lacey. It truly is an event for the entire community.”
Meet the Author: An All-Ages Community Event
The local community has the opportunity to meet Kashmira Sheth at a free Community Author Reception on Thursday, February 26, 2015 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Lacey Community Center. Sheth will read from “Tiger in My Soup” and talk with the audience. The evening will also include a dance performance by the India South Sound Association. With complimentary refreshments from Lacey Costco and door prizes from the Lacey Chamber of Commerce, the event will make a great family outing. Kids and adults alike will enjoy learning a little more about Indian culture.
Sheth’s book will be available for purchase from Orca Books, and you can also buy “Lacey Loves to Read” t-shirts and tote bags. The South Sound Reading Foundation will also be giving away free children’s books, so every child leaves with a book.
I hope you’ll join me for this evening of cross-cultural fun. Geographically speaking, we may live here in Thurston County, just one small corner of the world. But Sheth’s stories remind us that through books, we can take ourselves anywhere, and connect with the larger world, whether it’s another continent or a larger world inside of us.
Community Author Reception with Kashmira Sheth
Thursday, February 26, 2015 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Lacey Community Center
6729 Pacific Avenue Southeast
Olympia, Washington 98503
Get more event information here.
“Bruce Conner’s Atomic Sublime Cinema”
San Francisco-based artist Bruce Conner made his first experimental film, A MOVIE, in 1958, at the height of national anxiety about the atomic threat. Over the following decades, his films continued to address the cultural and political fallout of the Cold War. This talk examines Conner’s filmic output over two and a half decades, from his pioneering works of “found footage” montage, to his participation in psychedelic expanded cinema performance, to his more intimate portraits of female friends and later interest in music video. It argues that these works are expressions of the “atomic sublime,” an aesthetic that captures the paradoxical experience of “terrible beauty” that is generated by witnessing an atomic explosion. By attending closely to the historical and cultural context of Conner’s apocalyptic cinema, this talk proposes a reconsideration of postwar American art’s engagement with the aesthetics of “the sublime.”
Johanna Gosse is an art historian specializing in the postwar American avant-garde, with an emphasis on experimental film and media practices. She earned her PhD in the History of Art from Bryn Mawr College in 2014 with a dissertation on the experimental films of San Francisco-based artist Bruce Conner. Her writing has appeared in journals such as Camera Obscura, MIRAJ: Moving Image Review & Art Journal, Radical History Review, The Journal of Black Mountain College Studies, various exhibition catalogues, and Abstract Video: The Moving Image in Contemporary Art, an edited collection forthcoming from the University of California Press in 2015. You can read more about past work and current projects at: www.johannagosse.com.
Colors affect us psychologically and physiologically and when you are decorating your home or business, it is important to know what each color means and why it should or should not be used in a particular room.
Red has Energy and Passion
Red is an appetite and conversation stimulant. It also represents power. Red is best used in moderation as an accent color in living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens.
If you want to create passion in the bedroom, you can use red, but using too much can create hatred and agitation.
Yellow is Cheery and Invigorating
The right color of yellow can be happy and uplifting. It enhances concentration and speeds metabolism, making it a good color for kitchen, dining areas and offices.
Yellow can have a negative affect on some people, making it easier to lose your temper and cause upset in babies.
Blue is Calm and Relaxing
Blue is the color of trust, honesty, loyalty and responsibility and is the most universally-liked color. It is a calm, relaxing color, reducing stress and slowing down the metabolism making it great for a peaceful bedroom.
Blue can also be used in an office, as it is a color of trust. Steer away from blue in the dining room because it serves as an appetite suppressant.
Green Refreshes and Restores
Green is a mixture of blue and yellow, so it can be a calming color that refreshes, from its blue side. It also renews and restores depleted energy, from its yellow side. It is the color of balance, harmony and growth.
It is the easiest color on the eye and can improve vision. It is the color of prosperity and abundance. Green can be used in most rooms of the house without any negative effect.
Call the experts at Design Smart Home Staging and Redesign for a Color Consultation for your home or call (360) 480-5810.
By Megan Conklin
One local event that is quickly becoming a beloved winter tradition for dance aficionados in the area is the Olympia Dance Festival – a showcase of a dance styles and varieties from belly dancing to hip hop to ballet.
Ken and Josie, Artistic Directors for Ballet Northwest, launched the Olympia Dance Festival six years ago. Ken said that he and his wife were inspired by similar dance festivals in Lewis and Pierce counties, but wanted to create something even more local. “We have so many talented dancers in our area. We wanted to bring them all to one location and showcase that talent,” Ken explained. “We partnered with The Washington Center for the Performing Arts to create the festival.”
The combination of the perfect venue and fabulous talent makes for an evening of exciting variety and entertainment.
The dance festival is an especially thrilling opportunity for young people who study dance in Thurston County. Ten-year-old Harper Gould has participated in the Olympia Dance Festival for the past two years and will perform again this year. “I love the dance festival because I get to perform in front of such a big audience,” explains Gould, who will perform with the Comerford School of Irish Dance. “And it is even more fun than the Nutcracker because I dance with a smaller group of girls.” This year the Comerford Irish dancers, one of eleven groups performing, will perform both hard and soft shoe numbers as well as a unique and delightful “four hand” dance traditional to the Irish dance custom.
According to Ken, one reason the kids enjoy this particular festival so much is the opportunity to connect with other dancers. “Dancers who know each other from school and from out in the community, but practice different styles of dance, get to perform together at the festival,” Ken asserts. “That is really special.”
Because of the wide variety of local dance studios represented at the festival, it is a perfect event for parents with young children interested in dance to attend. The small sampling of different dance opportunities lets parents and children decide which style might be fun to try.
But the Olympia Dance Festival is not just for children. Many adult dance troupes will perform and there will be a special performance by Aaron Turner, a captivating tap dancer from Las Vegas who was seen on Season 10 of the hit show So You Think You Can Dance. Additionally, master classes taught by experts will be offered for festival participants as well as a Q&A session with Turner.
This year, the festival will include performances from Ballet Northwest, Ballet Theatre of Washington, Comerford School of Irish Dance, Debbi’s Dance Etc., High Impact Dance, Johansen Olympia Dance Center, Mas Uda Middle Eastern Dancers, RADCo (Random Acts of Dance Collective), Scoil Rince Slieveloughane Irish Dancers, Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble, and Studio West Dance Academy.
The Olympia Dance Festival is fast becoming a Thurston County memory making tradition for all who love dance in its many incarnations. Whether you are a dancer yourself, or merely a lover of the art, be sure to get your tickets for this can’t miss festival soon.
This year’s Olympia Dance Festival takes place on February 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here.
By Amy Rowley
To Betsy Perkins, inspiration for her music often comes from the people around her – lots of young people that attend Meadows Elementary School in Lacey. As the Library and Music teacher, Betsy finds that lyrics are just as likely to pop into her mind while working in the garden as a tune is to find its way to her while reading a children’s book.
Betsy’s songwriting career began when she was in elementary school. “I wrote a song about my cat, Sammy,” she recalls when speaking to a roomful of Meadows Elementary School students. Now, decades later, Betsy’s songs are taking a more cultured turn but still focus on the influence of animals and nature in her life.
Inside Meadows Elementary School, Betsy was originally a classroom teacher before transitioning to a full-time music teacher. Now, Betsy splits her time between teaching music and serving as the librarian.
“There is a whole new crew of students that excel in technology and music that may not be visible in the traditional classroom setting,” explains Betsy. “Music and dance is a really good outlet that allows different students to shine.”
Selfishly, Betsy feels that her teaching role has made her a better musician outside of the school.
Betsy hasn’t always been a singer, songwriter, and music maker. A native of New Hampshire, Betsy made her way to Lacey via The Evergreen State College. Betsy’s mother encouraged her interest in the arts by signing her up for a variety of dance, music and art lessons.
“I was fortunate to be involved in dance and to play clarinet and piano as a kid. I kind of went away from these things for awhile as a teenager but then returned to it when I moved to Olympia,” recalls Betsy.
Betsy, a member of a variety of local bands, credits local musicians as being her main teachers. “I learned music with people who were better than me and would show me things. I’m amazed that I’m teaching music from the gifts of the Olympia community,” she says.
In Bevy, an all women 7-piece jazz band, Betsy sings and plays percussion. The band started in 2001 as a way for women to practice together. The group performs around town, including a few stints at the Olympia Farmers Market.
Artesian Rumble Arkestra is a mobile band where Betsy shares her percussion skills. The band can often be seen in parades since all of the instruments can be carried.
“When I first rejoined a band, I started as a drummer,” recalls Betsy. “I used to sing a lot as a kid but I had stopped singing. I got comfortable as a band member and then I started singing again.”
Then, she progressed into songwriting. “Sometimes the lyrics come first. I think of something poetic and then craft the melodies. And, sometimes it’s the other way around,” she explains and adds that a song could take her a few hours to write or up to two years. She recently performed a concert of original music at The Washington Center that was a few years in the making.
“I think about music better when I play the piano,” says Betsy in response to the question about her favorite instrument. The owner of countless musical instruments, Betsy also has a fond spot for an upright bass that she purchased as a 40th birthday gift.
In all, Betsy says that she has probably written about 25 songs. Her current favorite is a complicated tune about a Grackle, a colorful, noisy bird. Betsy describes the loud calls made by the Grackle and explains that the complex piece of music has been a challenge for her band.
Betsy has composed some original tunes for Meadows Elementary School students. Beyond hoping to record an album one day, Betsy also would also “love to write a big children’s musical.”
By far, the most impactful experience of Betsy Perkins’ music career is when she “locks in” with other musicians. Whether it’s an energetic fifth grader or an accomplished adult musician, Betsy says that her “joy is playing with other people and feeling that excitement in the audience. We can all talk at once with music and then feel connected to each other.”
*Author’s Note – a special thank you to the fantastic students at Meadows Elementary School for helping craft interview questions and enabling us to all learn more about Betsy Perkin’s talents. This article was part of the P.I.E. relationship between ThurstonTalk.com and North Thurston Public Schools.