Thurston Talk

Syndicate content
Community-Based Social Media
Updated: 1 day 7 hours ago

WDVA Receives Pillar of Excellence Award

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 10:45am



Submitted by the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs

Olympia Mayor RaceOn 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:


Restaurant Rescue – Preventing Food Waste and Helping End Hunger in Our Community

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:52am



Submitted by Thurston County Solid Waste

restaurant rescue

The Restaurant Rescue van collected over 25 tons of edible surplus food from local restaurants and schools last year.

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.

A win-win-win

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.

restaurant rescue

The Thurston County Food Bank is able to repackage the food into ready-to-eat meals.

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

Pick Your Favorite Pie at Olympia Pie Fest

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 6:00am



By Alyssa Ramsfield

heritage bankFor 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.”

olympia pie fest

Admission to the Olympia Pie Fest is as low as bringing three cans of food from your pantry.

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.”

olympia pie fest

Over 200 pies are expected to be entered into the 2015 pie festival.

For more information on this year’s Pie Fest, visit


Olympia Pie Fest

February 28 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Olympia Center  – 222 Columbia St NW

Olympia, Washington 98501


FirstLight HomeCare to Change Smoke Detector Batteries for Seniors

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 2:37pm



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

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.


Experience Olympia’s Arbutus Folk School

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 1:53pm



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.

Arbutus Folk School (13) Arbutus Folk School (18) Arbutus Folk School (10) Arbutus Folk School (17) Arbutus Folk School (8) Arbutus Folk School (4) Arbutus Folk School (3) Arbutus Folk School (7) Arbutus Folk School (15) Arbutus Folk School Founder Stacey Waterman Arbutus Folk School (12) Arbutus Folk School (11) Arbutus Folk School (1) Arbutus Folk School (19) Arbutus Folk School (20) Arbutus Folk School (16)


Adopt-A-Pet Dog of the Week

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 10:32am



Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet

Humvee - Adopt a pet dog of the weekMeet 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 or  at or (360) 432-3091.

Mac N’ More Offers ‘Slightly Twisted’ Take on Comfort Food

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:06am



By Rachel Thomson

volkswagenCrayfish tails and green onions or a blend of beef and pork meatloaf aren’t ingredients most come cooks would think of adding to macaroni and cheese.

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.

mac n more lacey

The original macroni and cheese at Mac N’ More is made with four cheeses.

“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.

mac n more lacey

Sara Lounsberry takes an order from a customer at Mac N’ More.

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.

mac n more lacey

The Hawaiian Mac features Kalua Pork and fried cabbage with a tropical fruit salsa. It was a past “Mac of the Month” featured menu item. Photo Courtesy Mac N’ More

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.”

mac n more lacey

Customers often show their appreciation for their meals by leaving chalk drawings on the tables.

“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.

‘N More

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.


mac n more

From left to right: Mac N’ More employees Dylan Saul, owner Steve Cobb and Sara Lounsberry

Mac N’ More

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.


“Lacey Loves to Read” Brings Acclaimed Author Kashmira Sheth to Lacey

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 6:01am



By Gale Hemmann

lacey loves to read

Students at North Thurston Public Schools read and participate in activities based on a selected book each year. Photo courtesy of North Thurston Public Schools

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

lacey loves to read

Author Kashmira Sheth will be giving a reading as part of an all-ages community event at the Lacey Community Center. Photo courtesy of Kashmira Sheth and North Thurston Public Schools

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.

lacey loves to read

Local students had the opportunity to Skype with author Kashmira Sheth as part of this year’s activities. Photo courtesy of North Thurston Public Schools

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.

lacey loves to read

Each year, Lacey Loves to Read brings the joy of reading and important multicultural themes to kids and adults around Lacey through free programming. Photo courtesy of North Thurston Public Schools

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.

To learn more about Kashmira Sheth, visit her inviting author website. Learn more about Lacey Loves to Read here.

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.

Color Consultation: Color Meanings and Effects

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 6:00am



design smart living areaColors 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

design smart kitchen view from living roomBlue 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.


Olympia Dance Festival Delights Fans and Families Alike

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 6:00am



By Megan Conklin

sunset airKen and Josie Johnson choreograph more than just dance in Thurston County.  The married couple choreographs traditions.

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.”

olympia dance festival

During the Olympia Dance Festival, the audience is treated to a wide variety of performances.

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.”

olympia dance festival

Aaron Turner is a captivating tap dancer who will be on stage during the Olympia Dance Festival.

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.

Betsy Perkins – Making Feet Dance at Meadows Elementary School and in Local Bands

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 6:00am



By Amy Rowley

betsy perkins

By day, Betsy Perkins is a music teacher and librarian at Meadows Elementary School. Outside of the classroom, Betsy performs with local bands.

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.

bevy band olympia

Bevy is an all-women seven piece jazz band. Betsy sings and plays percussion.

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.”

betsy perkins

Betsy has composed more than 25 songs. Her favorite tune is about a noisy bird.

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 and North Thurston Public Schools.


Yelm’s Darren Harris Wins Third State Wrestling Title

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 3:31pm



By Gail Wood

lucky eagleWith a wide grin, a jubilant Darren Harris raised both his arms above his head and pointed three fingers on each hand.

This was his moment to celebrate, to savor his third state championship. In his final match as a Yelm Tornado, Harris, a senior and four-time state qualifier, put an exclamation point to his spectacular high school with a pin, of course, to win his third state title.

yelm darren harris

Yelm’s Darren Harris goes for state title number three here in the 126-pound finals.

Harris, the state’s all-time leader in pins with 112, pinned three of the four opponents he faced at the 4A state wrestling tournament in the Tacoma Dome. In the finals at 129 pounds against Lake Stevens’ Alex Rodorigo, Harris led 8-2 after scoring on a near fall. Then Harris, as he’s done so many times before, flipped his opponent to his back and won by a pin.

“This is the best possible feeling I could get,” Harris said moments after winning his third state title. “I wanted to be a three-timer and that was it. I just set my mind to it and practiced way harder to achieve my goal.”

Yelm High School coach Gaylord Strand didn’t know whether to cheer or cry.

“It’s been quite a ride,” Strand said. “He’s given the community so much joy and pride. Now, it’s all come to an end. I’m happy and sad at the same time.”

While focused on his end goal – to win three state titles – Harris wasn’t focused only on himself. He was like a coach, always helping teammates with technique, giving them advice at practice.

darren harris wrestling

Darren Harris works here for a takedown early in the state finals.

“We’re really going to miss him in the practice room because anybody he touches he’s helped,” Strand said.

After winning his first state title as a freshman – “That was my goal since I was in seventh grade,” Harris said – he had a setback. He lost in the finals his sophomore year in a match that he led 8-1. Determined not to lose again, Harris went undefeated his next two seasons, stringing together 64 straight wins. He went 29-0 this year and finished 129-7 as a Tornado. He’s the first to win a state title at Yelm.

“He’s got a lot of drive,” Strand said. “He sets his goals and nothing gets in the way. He’s so focused. As you can see nothing gets in his way.”

Harris’ high school career is over. But his wrestling days aren’t done. He’s considering scholarship offers to wrestle at Boise State and Oregon State.

“I’m really going to miss it,” Harris said about wrestling at Yelm. “Strand and all the coaches are great coaches. I’ll still be coming by just to say hi to all my friends. It’s been an honor to be part of the team.”

darren harris wrestling

Darren Harris celebrates after winning his third state wrestling championship.

After winning the regional title, Yelm had 14 wrestlers qualify for state and the Tornadoes finished with four placers. Besides Harris, Tanner Page (138), Bo Campbell (170), Holden Miller (220) all placed.

Page won his first match 15-5 and then lost 5-2 in the quarterfinals and ended up placing sixth. Campbell lost his first match and then won his next two matches and placed seventh as he pinned his final opponent. Miller won his opening match 3-1 before losing 6-3 in the quarterfinals and finished seventh at 220 pounds, pinning his final opponent in 4:44.

In the 2A meet, Tumwater High School’s Eric Schmidt, a senior who was an alternate to state last year, won his first three matches to reach the finals at 132 pounds against Orthello’s Many Martinez, last year’s state champ. Schmidt got into trouble early and lost by a first-round pin.

Schmidt overcame adversity during the season and impressed his coach, Tony Prentice. Before every match, Prentice always placed the emphasis on composure, not on winning.

tumwater wrestling

Tumwater coach Tony Prentice consoles Eric Schmidt after his loss in the 132-pound finals.

“He’s made huge strides,” Prentice said. “This is such a bonus. He’s had some other things going on personally that makes this story so much more dramatic. He’s overcome so much.”

Four of Tumwater’s nine state qualifiers placed. Zach Slater placed third at 170, Sam Richards was fifth at 182, and freshman Cy Hicks was fifth at heavyweight.

Slater pinned his first opponent and then lost by a pin in the quarterfinals. Slater then won his next four matches, winning 4-2 in the consolations finals. Richards pinned his first opponent in 2:15 and then lost 8-2. He won his last match 8-7. Hicks won his first two matches 3-2 and 3-1 then lost 5-2 in the semifinals. He pinned his final opponent in 1:47.

Prentice was second guessing his decision not to go out for lunch after Saturday’s morning round. But with about a 90-minute window, he decided to stay in the Tacoma Dome, making a decision most coaches would have made.

“We went 6-3 in the first round,” the Tumwater coach said. “Then we went 3-7. Maybe if we had gotten our brain out of here for a bit, we probably would have done better.”


Was It Really the Water in Olympia’s First Brewery?

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 6:20am



By Emmett O’Connell

pints logoThe story of Olympia’s first ever brewery and first ever locally brewed beer is a great illustration about how the waves of history can make landfall in several corners of a community.

Isaac Wood was an early pioneer of the area east of Olympia that eventually became Lacey, taking a land claim in 1852. Seven years later he opened Olympia’s first brewery on the northeast corner of 4th and Columbia.

Wood’s family is so ingrained in the Lacey landscape that if not for the other Woodland on the Columbia River getting to the name first in the 1890s, the city we call Lacey now might have been named after him.

isaac wood

Isaac Wood is credited with starting the first brewery in Olympia.

In the late 1850s and the early 1860s, Wood brewed a variety of beer called a cream ale. The corner of 4th and Columbia now sits several blocks away from what we’d consider the waterfront, since the acres of downtown fill had not occurred in Wood’s time. So his “Union Brewery”  was very near the shore of Budd Inlet.

Wood’s cream ale likely referred to a beer closely resembling what we would today call a typical American lager (think Budweiser as a fairly commercial example), with some influences from ale hop beers. Brewers influenced by German brewing traditions used lager recipes as an alternative to English styles such as ales. (Today’s Northwest IPAs are descendants.)

From More Beer:

Welsh and Yankee brewers in the Delaware Valley region of Pennsylvania had established Philadelphia as a center for ale brewing, but around the beginning of this century, the adjunct lagers being sold by the area’s new German brewers began to make inroads into ale sales. The public was beginning to prefer American lager’s light, clear, and effervescent appearance. Ale brewers responded to this demand by creating a top-fermented product similar to an American lager. Using ale yeast (or possibly even a combination of lager and ale yeasts, though no concrete evidence exists for the use of lager yeast in the early cream ales), they could produce beer more quickly than the lager brewers could, thereby potentially increasing sales and market share.* It may also have meant that they could use the same worts for both lagers and ales and benefit from economies of scale. These new beers were termed “brilliant,” “sparkling,” or “present use” ales, with the nickname “cream ale” sticking as the common name. Cream ales of the early twentieth century were described as having the appearance of a lager beer, but a fairly pronounced ale taste and character.

olympia beer history

Isaac Wood’s Union Brewery was located at 4th and Columbia. During his days, this was right on the water front.

The naming of his brewery as the “Union Brewery” most likely had to do with the political reaction to the brewing Civil War on the East Coast. Up until the Lincoln administration, the Washington Territory had been a government led by Democrats. As such, local Democrats in Olympia tended to be in leadership positions. But, as Democrats were forced to show their loyalty to the union cause, we see some interesting displays. Maybe one of them was Woods’ Union Brewery.

Isaac Wood was also the first person to bring over English hops to the Pacific Northwest, kicking off the most iconic portion of Northwest brewing.

From the Oregon Historical Quarterly:

During the fall of 1865, Olympia Washington Brewer Isaac Wood became frustrated with his inability to acquire hops, grown predominantly in distant East Coast and European fields. He asked his neighboring farming family, the Meekers to plant a few hills of the crop and they agreed to experiment. It was a historic decision… Following the family’s windfall, Ezra Meeker energetically promoted the news to farmers across the region. He asserted that the future of Pacific Northwest farming rested in hops.

Meeker would eventually become known as the “Hop King of the World.” Today, hardly anyone can imagine Northwest brewing without the inclusion of Pacific Northwest hops. Without Wood’s cagey suggestion, hop growing may have eventually come to the Northwest. But, we can certainly trace the hop crazy beer tradition in the Northwest to Olympia’s own brewer.

olympia beer history

Olympia residents clamored for Wood’s cream ale which had a unique flavor, perhaps from the water source.

The specific location of Wood’s Union Brewery may turn out to be the most interesting historic nugget of Wood’s brewing life. Because 4th and Columbia was so near the saltwater, and Wood took his water for brewing from a reportedly shallow well, his specific variety of cream ale took on a very particular taste.

We know what cream ales are and how they developed into the iconic American lagers. But there is something specific about Wood’s brew that lasted for decades in the memories of locals.

Writing about the eventual 1909 destruction of Wood’s brewery building, Gordon Newell in “Rogues, Buffoons and Statesmen wrote: “(Washington Standard editor John Miller Murphy) observed nostalgically that the remaining pioneers ‘would give five dollars for a glass of that cream ale.’”

Wood likely tapped into an unrelated tradition of German brewing called Gose Beer. Named after the town of Goslar, Germany, this variety of beer includes either briney water or actually adding salt to the beer recipe.  By accidently mixing cream ale with the briny water from the Deschutes River estuary, Wood probably created a very unique and very particular variety of beer.

References and further reading:

More Beer: Cream Ale

Oregon Historical Quarterly: Hop Fever

Lacey: An Interesting History And Unusual Place Name

Dun Dreaming Ranch Provides Safe Haven for Rescued Farm Animals

Sun, 02/22/2015 - 5:41am



By Heidi Smith

volkswagenJoyce was one of those kids that was always picking up animals. “From day one, I would bring home everything,” she says. Unfortunately at the time, many of them turned out to belong to her New Jersey neighbors, so she had to give them back. Today, she doesn’t have that problem. Her 40 acre farm animal rescue, Dun Dreaming Ranch in Roy, is home to 28 rescue animals including horses, goats, cows and her first rescue, a potbellied pig named – what else? – Pig Pig. “They know that they’re safe here and that they’re loved,” she says.

animal rescue

Penelope enjoys the companionship of Frick and Frack, two rescue goats Joyce got at an auction.

The animals come from a variety of situations. Chance the cow belongs to a young couple who bought him at a fundraiser. “He was a really sickly little bottle calf and they insisted on buying him, and got him straight to the vet,” says Joyce. “He was dehydrated and in really bad shape.” The pair raised him for almost two years but their living situation changed and they had to move into downtown Yelm.  “They didn’t want anything bad to happen to him, so they brought him here,” says Joyce, who asked that only her first name be used for privacy reasons.

Then there’s Penelope the pygmy goat. “She was a hoarding case,” Joyce explains. Concerned neighbors told her that two of the goat’s babies had frozen to death due to neglect and the traumatized mother was running loose in the neighborhood. “The owner let me ‘have’ her for $25.” She shakes her head. “She was scared to death of people.”

Pig Pig was a sadly typical case of “someone thinking pot-bellied pigs are cute, but once they start to grow up, they don’t know what to do with them,” according to Joyce. “I brought her here.” Now she hangs out with Frick and Frack, two other rescue goats, as well as Penelope.

Thirty yards from the goats, several horses graze contentedly. “They were all in pretty bad shape when they came here,” says Joyce. “One of them was 100 pounds underweight.” Another has a bone deformity and can never be ridden, while a third is 32 years old. In a nearby pasture, a former race horse is enjoying a new sense of freedom. “It’s the first time he’s been able to just be outside in the pasture running and rolling and playing,” she says, adding that he is working through issues related to his years on the track.

animal rescue

Coco and 32-year old Val have become good friends after a year together at Dun Dreaming Ranch.

Although humans are often the culprits in neglectful scenarios, Joyce even protects animals from other animals. Seven, a cow that has some mental and physical disabilities, was being beaten up by other cows. “This is a no bullying farm,” she declares, “so when he first came here and they were in the cow barn, he had his own stall. He gets his own food and water. This is his own little special area. Now everybody gets along just fine. There’s no pushing. There’s no bullying.”

While Joyce grew up around horses and was married to a cattle rancher, farm animals are a new chapter for her so she’s had to learn a lot as she went along. At the same time, she’s been a vet tech and learned about Emergency Animal Relief through an American Humane Association course. In Texas, she even started her own non-profit animal rescue. “The first year, with five volunteers, we rescued and adopted out over 700 animals – all spayed, neutered, heart wormed, microchipped, and started on crate training,” she says.  “I had mainly foster homes so when we had adopted animals out there, they were socialized.”

animal rescue

The aptly named ‘Pig Pig’ spends most of his time hanging out with his goat pals.

Although she already has a board of directors in place and has started the paperwork to turn Dun Dreaming into a non-profit, she has reservations. “I want to keep it at a level I can manage because it’s only me here,” she says. “I want to have enough grass for all of the animals. The 40 acres is not all grazeable. Over half of my land is heavy woods and hillside. Taking care of the animals I already have is a 24/7 job.” She’s open to having more animals on the property, and the land can certainly support more, but at the same time, “I don’t want twenty animals in a pen,” she says.

What she could use is support with clearing the land and donations of hay.  “I need hands on for clearing brush, cutting limbs, that kind of stuff,” she says. “It’s another 25 acres up there where trees are down. Believe it or not, one of the biggest things is picking up rocks. These pastures were death traps with all the rocks. I also need help with plumbing stuff that I don’t know how to do. There are valves all over the farm that need to be capped off. So those tasks and hay donations are really the biggest needs.” At $12 a bale, hay is one of the biggest expenses she currently incurs.

Although the work can seem unending, to Joyce it’s all worth it. Knowing that every single animal here knows they’re loved, they’re taken care of, they will always have full bellies – that’s how I sleep at night,” she says.  “So when I get up at 1:00 a.m. and it’s freezing cold, that’s why I do it. If I can only control this forty acres in my lifetime, that’s what I will do.”

For more information, contact Joyce at

Real Estate Agents Create a Partnership of Trust with Boggs Inspection Services

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 2:31pm



boggs home inspection

The Boggs Inspection Services team works together to provide quality home inspections throughout the South Sound.

Buying and selling a home ranks near the top of life’s most stressful situations. It’s during these times that we wrestle with the “what-ifs” that are out of our control. What if the offer is rejected? What if our house doesn’t sell and we find one we want to buy? What if the appraisal is low? And a big one for all buyers and sellers – what will the home inspection find?

Real estate agents assist greatly in alleviating fears and providing knowledge and expertise to navigate the complex steps to buying and selling. But when it comes to the home inspection, agents know to turn to a trusted partner, ensuring their client receives accurate information about the condition of their future dream home.

Olympia-based Van Dorm Realty agent Cheri Wilkins has been helping clients find new homes in the South Sound for over 20 years. She’s seen her share of home inspections in that time, some turning up hidden issues making a huge difference in a sale. Ten years ago, Wilkin’s sister gave her the name of a new inspector and urged her to give him a try.

Dwayne Boggs had just opened the doors of Boggs Inspection Services and was looking to partner with local agents, offering his signature brand of clear, concise and accurate inspection reports. Once Wilkins experienced Boggs’ easy-to-follow report style and simple, yet accurate, explanations to clients, she was hooked.

olympia real estate

Cheri Wilkins has been helping clients find their dream homes in Thurston County for over 20 years.

“Dwayne is always clear and concise. His team never tries to scare people with their findings. His inspectors explain clearly what’s needed in the house and is careful to not alarm them with building terms they don’t understand,” Wilkens explains. It’s not just that his reports are clear, either. Boggs personally walks homebuyers through each issue he has found, pointing out the trouble spots and giving realistic guidelines as to whether it’s a major issue or just something to be aware of.

Boggs Inspection Services is one of Wilkin’s top choices for her clients for more than just their excellent reports. “Dwayne and his team is always available, usually the day we call or by the next morning. That keeps our transaction moving and allows buyers to move towards closing more quickly,” she shares.

For sellers, Boggs Inspection Services offers valuable home pre-inspections. Knowing problem areas before listing your home, and having a chance to address them, makes your home more attractive to buyers and avoids the hassle of costly repairs during negotiation and sale process.

“One unique thing Dwayne’s team offers is inspections for seniors,” shares Wilkins. As a long-time member of the Senior Action Network, Boggs Inspection Services works with local seniors, ensuring their homes are safe for their golden years. “Often seniors have been in their home for a while and are no longer able to maintain it in the same way that they used to. Boggs inspectors can look under the house or check the electrical and give seniors peace of mind that their home is safe,” Wilkens explains.

Lacey based agent Phil Sharp also lists Boggs Inspection Services at the top of his list for his client’s home inspections. Sharp specializes in helping military families relocate in the JBLM area, often buying homes sight-unseen as they plan relocation from overseas.

olympia real estate

Phil Sharp specializes in helping military families find a new home in Pierce or Thurston County during their relocation to JBLM.

“Dwayne and his team offer a consistent inspection experience every time. I know my clients will get a clear, concise, and easy to read report within a day of inspection,” shares Sharp. “When working with home buyers located in Germany or Korea, for example, the written report with its excellent photos is invaluable.” In these situations, Phil attends the inspections instead of the buyers and knows the Boggs team will be available to answer any questions his clients have.

The communication and organization of the Boggs team is what truly sets them apart for Sharp. During a sale, the relationship between buyer and seller is key. Having a fast turnaround on the inspection, keeping the sale from sitting in the “pending” category, can really influence negotiations and speed closing.

“Time is of the essence in real estate, particularly when I have clients staying in a hotel or scheduled to fly into the country soon,” says Sharp. “With Dwayne’s team, we get a fast and comprehensive inspection that is valuable to buyers and sellers.”

Throughout the ups and downs of buying and selling a house a real-estate agent helps navigate through often confusing terminology and paperwork. But agents are only as good as their support team which is why both Cheri Wilkins and Phil Sharp look to Boggs Inspection Services to assist in this crucial part of the process.

“What Dwayne and his team bring to the table is great,” says Sharp. “It’s what I, and my clients, need.”

To schedule an inspection, call Boggs Inspection Services at 360-480-9602.


Port Blakely Accepting Applications for Environmental Education Grants

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 1:16pm



Submitted by Port Blakely

Schools that participate in Port Blakely Tree Farms’ environmental education program are encouraged to apply for one of four grants. The maximum amount of each grant is $500, to be awarded in June 2015.

Port Blakely Tree Farms started the grant program in 2011 to help elementary schools provide environmental education opportunities for students. Any school that participates in Port Blakely Tree Farms’ environmental education program in Washington and Oregon is eligible to apply for grant funds.

“As a company with over 150 years of history, we recognize that our longevity and success is in part due to the commitment of primary educators to environmental education,” said Court Stanley, President of Port Blakely Tree Farms. “This is our way of further supporting their efforts to connect students with natural resources.”

The application and information on Port Blakely Tree Farms’ environmental education grant can be found here.

Port Blakely Tree Farms, LP, owns and manages healthy forestlands throughout western Washington and Oregon. The company provides sustainable forest products, protects wildlife habitat and water resources, and supports the local communities in which it operates. Port Blakely Tree Farms is a division of Port Blakely Companies, a 150-year-old, family-owned company with diversified assets in forestry, and forest product exports. For information, visit

River Ridge Boys Basketball Team On A Playoff Roll

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 11:31am



By Gail Wood

Rock FitnessIn basketball, the typical reaction of a starter being benched is frustration. It unplugs, not inspires.

But nine games into River Ridge High School’s season in boys basketball, coach John Barbee, with his team struggling through a 5-4 start, juggled his lineup. Thayer Murphy, a backup guard, became a starter. Mack Armstrong, a junior forward, became the sub off the bench.

And rather than fume, rather than check out, Armstrong cranked up in his intensity. Murphy, rather than wilt under a starter’s role, has flourished, scoring a career-high 34 in the Hawks’ recent 61-54 district playoff win against Lindberg. The backup who became a starter is averaging a team-high 12 points.

river ridge basketball

River Ridge coach John Barbee juggled his lineup to help the Hawks reach the playoffs.

And Armstrong’s goal never changed. It’s still all about winning.

“We’re all brothers out here,” Armstrong said prior to a recent practice. “We’re supportive of each other. As long as we’re winning, that’s all that matters.”

For Armstrong, it doesn’t matter if his points come as a starter or as a backup. That help-where-he-can attitude is why he’s averaging 11.1 points off the bench, second on the team. He’s been the designated points-to-the-rescue backup.

“I just come in off the bench wanting to be a boost and a spark,” Armstrong said. “I want to do all I can to help the team win.”

Armstrong’s approach is a big reason why River Ridge turned its season around. After going 3-3 and then 5-4 to start the season, River Ridge, with a new lineup and a new gear as Barbee asked more from his team’s defense, has won 11 of its last 12 games. As winners of the South Puget Sound League, River Ridge is now 18-5 after the Hawks beat White River 61-54 on Thursday in the district semifinals. They play Washington in the championship game on Saturday.

The biggest indicator of the Hawks’ turnaround season is what they did against Franklin Pierce. In their first meeting with Franklin Pierce, the still-in-a-funk Hawks lost 72-71. The next time a revamped and rolling River Ridge blasted Franklin Pierce 73-35.

river ridge basketball

The Hawks helped turn their season around with a hustling defense.

Barbee’s magic worked. He said those losses were lessons learned, helping his team get better.

“We went through some growing pains early,” Barbee said. “That was crucial. I think that put us in a good spot now.”

Coming into the season, Barbee had reasons to be optimistic. Four of his five starters returned off a team that lost in the regionals. The only starter not returning was Austin Curry, the sharp-shooting guard who transferred to Timberline. Still, Barbee thought the parts were in place for a good season.

After all Kobe Key was back at point guard, giving the Hawks experience at a key position. He’s not just a passer, but he’s also a scorer. The junior guard is third on the team in scoring with 9.4 average.

“He’s a good leader,” Barbee said. “To go far, you have to have a good point guard and he’s a good one. The key for us and the key for him is keeping him out of foul trouble.”

Key, who plays a lot of minutes and is aggressive, has fouled out of a couple of games. In the playoff win against Lindbergh, Key fouled out in the closing.

river ridge basketball

After a 5-4 start to the season, River Ridge got hot and won the league title.

“It was a good opportunity for other kids to step up,” Barbee said, putting a positive light on a negative moment.

Key, as the starting quarterback on the football team, is used to being a leader. As a team captain, he sees his role as being a rah-rah, get-it-going guy.

“My role is to just keep guys up,” Key said. “Keep guys focused – and just play hard.”

Murphy grew up quickly as he stepped into his new role as a starter.

“He got an opportunity and he made the most of it,” Barbee said.

But it wasn’t just the points Murphy scored that convinced Barbee to keep him in the starting lineup. It was his intensity on defense, the floor burns on his knees.

“The other thing about him is he plays hard on both ends,” Barbee said. “He doesn’t just come in and shoot. He’s going to go to the floor for the loose ball. He’s going to take the charge. He’s going to do all the little things to keep him in the game.”

river ridge basketball

River Ridge’s defense continues to be trouble for opponents.

Murphy isn’t enamored with his starter’s job. He’s driven by something other than his own stats and status.

“The only thing that matters is winning the game,” Murphy said. “I’m a starter now. But if I didn’t start and I got zero minutes and we won I’d be just as happy if I started and got 32 points.”

Key is one of eight players on the basketball team who also played football. At a time when coaches are often upping the ante and asking their players to commit to one sport and play it year around, Barbee encourages his players to play other sports. It’s all about having a good high school experience.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Barbee said. “Some of my closest friends are from relationships I formed in sports.”

Nisqually Reach Nature Center Wins Environmental Awards

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 7:12am



Submitted by Nisqually Reach Nature Center

nisqually reach

Students find ribbon worm at Luhr Beach during a Nisqually Reach Nature Center summer camp.

The Nisqually Reach Nature Center (NRNC), located in Olympia, Washington, received two awards that were announced Wednesday at the annual meeting in Richmond, BC, of the Washington-British Columbia chapter of the American Fisheries Society. NRNC was recognized as both Conservation Organization of the Year and Volunteer Organization of the Year by the Society chapter.

Conservation Organization of the Year is awarded annually to “an organization that has significantly contributed to a program or activity for conservation of fishery resources or habitats.” NRNC’s mission is to promote the understanding and preservation of the Nisqually estuarine ecosystem through education and research.

The Society cited NRNC’s initiative in promoting the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve as part of the Aquatic Reserve program of the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Established by DNR in 2011, the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve encompasses nearly 15,000 acres of DNR-owned aquatic lands stretching from Tolmie State Park to the eastern edge of McNeil Island, east to Steilacoom and south to the Nisqually delta. Working with DNR, NRNC Executive Director Daniel Hull brought together stakeholders including representatives of commercial interests, Pierce and Thurston County communities, and Tribes to develop a management plan for the new Reserve.

NRNC oversees two Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committees—one at NRNC’s facility at Luhr Beach and the other on Anderson Island–that have undertaken citizen science research projects, kept track of proposed regulations that might impact the Reserve, and monitored activities within the Reserve. Two projects relevant to the American Fisheries Society are the Forage Fish Spawning Survey and the Pigeon Guillemot Breeding Survey. These surveys will provide data to help in assessing the status of forage fish in south Puget Sound. Small fish such as sculpin comprise a major portion of the diet of seabirds such as Pigeon Guillemots.

As Volunteer Organization of the Year, NRNC was recognized as a nonprofit that inspires many dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers who promote the importance of protecting the pristine habitat of the Nisqually delta. Volunteers staff the Center, serve as counselors at summer science camps, carry out citizen science research projects, and educate visitors at many community outreach events in Pierce and Thurston Counties.

Saltwater aquariums at the visitor center display marine creatures including sea cucumbers, Dungeness and other crabs, gunnels, forage fish, ghost shrimp, and sea stars. Since NRNC was established more than 30 years ago, volunteers have been instrumental in providing information and opportunities for community members to experience the beauty of the Nisqually estuary.

“We are pleased and honored to receive these awards,” said Jim Cubbage, President of NRNC’s Board of Directors. “The awards will inspire us to work even harder to bring our message of environmental stewardship to South Sound communities.”

Restaurants, Vendors, Swappers Invited to Port of Olympia’s BoatSwap and Chowder Challenge

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 7:03am



Submitted by Port of Olympia

Just in time for boating season, the Port of Olympia BoatSwap & Chowder Challenge returns on Saturday, June 20, 2015, from 11:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Swantown Marina. The Port invites sign-ups from restaurants and marine-related businesses interested in participating, as well as event sponsors. To be featured on the event poster, participants must sign up by April 1st.

At the 2014 event, 11 South Sound restaurants competed in the chowder cook-off and 1,800 people tasted their unique recipes. Event goers can sample all the chowders and vote for their favorites.

The BoatSwap offers the community an opportunity to buy and sell new and used boats, marine gear and accessories. Both commercial and private vendors are invited to exhibit and sell their wares.

Businesses are also invited to participate with the Port in sponsoring this popular community event.

To sign up and learn details about event sponsorships, restaurant participation, vendor exhibit rates and other inquiries, call the Port at 360.528.8005 or email

Participants shop or browse the boats and marine displays, watch and taste at the chowder pots, and enjoy music and family entertainment along the waterfront.

Swantown Marina is located on the East Bay of Budd Inlet at 1022 Marine Drive NE, Olympia, 98501.

Note: This Port festival for the community was on hiatus for several years due to construction in the vicinity which limited parking. Previously, the festival was known as the Swantown BoatSwap & Chowder Challenge and attracted 4,000 to 5,000 participants. The Port re-introduced the event in May 2013 as the Port of Olympia BoatSwap & Chowder Challenge.

Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 6:00am



I spent a few years in my early 20s in New England.  I only lasted a couple of winters before I was begging my husband to move at least west of the Mississippi River.  As we relish in the sun and mild temperatures earlier this week, I can’t help but feel compassion for my friends trudging through snow on the East Coast (week after week).  I wish I could wave a magic wand and have Mother Nature even out some of this wacky winter weather.  But for now, I think that I’ll be happy that I’m wearing a light rain jacket rather than a parka.

Here’s what’s going on around Olympia this weekend.

  • Catch a production of the Olympia School District Players “Magical Moments” musical.  Showtimes can be found here.
  • Sign-up your middle school aged daughter for the Expanding Your Horizons STEM Conference.  Get details here.
  • Celebrate Lunar New Year by shopping at a local Asian market for all your meal supplies.
  • Dig razor clams throughout the weekend.  I even hear that some diggers have been pulling up clams bare-handed.  Tide information can be found here.
  • Find live theater at Harlequin Productions, Olympia Family Theater, and Olympia Little Theatre throughout the weekend.
  • Take your jewelry to be appraised at The Gift Gallery on Saturday.  Event details are here.
  • Celebrate the statewide Beer Open House event on Saturday at Top Rung Brewing from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.  Find out about their pale ale that they are releasing during the event here.
  • Check out the Studio West Dance Academy’s annual charity fundraiser, “Dance to Make a Difference,” on Saturday evening at the Minnaert Center.  Tickets can be purchased here.  Proceeds benefit SafePlace.
  • Listen to Clint Black at The Washington Center on Saturday evening.  Ticket information can be found here.
  • Make a night of it by including an overnight stay at the Red Lion with your tickets.  Package deals can be found here.
  • Laugh to stand-up comics at the Capitol Theater on Saturday night.  Get details here.
  • Participate in the ROAD-odend-RUN at Capitol Lake on Sunday morning – 2 runners x 1.5 miles x 2 legs each = 6 miles.  Find more local 5k races here.
  • Visit Cafe Love on Sunday afternoon for a “playshop” to hone your poetry skills.
  • Watch a silent film at The Washington Center on Sunday afternoon, accompanied by live music on the 1924 organ.  More details can be found here.
  • Learn how Thomas Mani can bring bees to your backyard this summer.
  • Support a local business as it transitions its operations.  Centro’s liquidation sale is happening now.  Details can be found here.
  • Find out what people think of the plastic bag ban.  The report was issued on February 19 by Thurston Solid Waste.  A summary can be read here.
  • Visit an open house event this weekend. Click here to see the list of Van Dorm Realty’s open houses.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.