Recent local blog posts

Volunteers Wanted to Help Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Thurston Talk - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 2:18pm



Submitted by Thurston County 

The Master Recycler class educates attendees on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle to benefit their community and the earth.

The Master Recycler class educates attendees on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle to benefit their community and the earth.

Are you looking to do good by being more green? Ever wondered how you could do more to help the planet by helping out in your own little corner of the community? If you have passion for reducing, re-using, recycling or composting, then we want you to join the Thurston County Master Recycler Composter volunteer program!

The WSU Thurston County Extension and the county’s Solid Waste Division are recruiting for this year’s Master Recycler Composter (MRC) class. MRC volunteers learn how to reduce waste and increase public awareness of opportunities to prevent waste, recycle, and compost in Thurston County. Volunteers will also be trained to promote the “Waste Less Food” campaign, which will help them share valuable tips to not only save time and money, but keep precious resources from going to waste. Participants will receive background and hands-on training from local educators and experts. Class topics include waste prevention, recycling processes and markets, home composting, worm composting, how to be a green consumer, and much more.

The Fall 2015 MRC training classes will be held each Thursday evening in October from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. starting October 1 and running through October 29. The classes will be held in various training rooms around Lacey-Olympia-Tumwater area. The training also includes Saturday morning field trips on October 10 and October 17.

MRC course graduates agree to give a minimum of 25 hours of yearly service as they put their new skills to use. They will work with local organizations, community members, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, or at special events encouraging waste prevention, recycling and composting. MRCs can design their own projects or work on existing ones. On-going continuing education opportunities will be provided.

Online applications are available online now. Applications are due by September 15 at 5:00 p.m., but hurry, space is limited and preference will be given to applicants who live or work within Thurston County. A $25 course fee will be collected at the first class to help cover the costs of training materials and field trips.

For more information about the Master Recycler Composter program, contact Cori Carlton at or call (360) 867-2162.


My Spectacularly Unsuccessful Teaching Career

South Sound Arts - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 10:23am

No wonder they fired me in Clarkton when I looked like this (Nashville, TN, all dressed up for a job interview).

Departing from my usual arts writing, I’d like to share this with some of my friends.Yes, I was a teacher for a brief moment a long time ago.In 1970 I was hired to teach art in the tiny town of Clarkton, Missouri. For a $200 bonus they also got me to direct a school play. I had never before directed a play. The last (and only) play I had been in was in the first grade when I was one of the dwarfs in Snow White. In Clarkton, population approximately 2,500 at the time, I taught high school art classes three days a week and junior high and elementary art the other two days (high school and junior high shared a building and the elementary school next door was connected to the high school by a covered walkway). I at least got to spend enough time with my 10th, 11thand 12th grade students to learn their names, not so with the earlier grades where I felt I accomplished absolutely nothing; at best I was a fun babysitter.I did a pretty good job with the high school students, but I have to admit that my classes got pretty wild. I was not good at disciplining the students. My theory was that if you made the classes interesting enough, discipline would not be necessary. That theory proved to be partially true, but definitely not completely true.My end-of-year evaluation gave me high marks on innovation and knowledge of subject but ended with this statement from the principal: “The noise from Mr. Clayton’s class, especially the laughter, is disrupting to other classes. Not recommended for rehire.”Thus ended my public school teaching career with the exception of a few years substitute teaching in Nashville, Tennessee and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where my inability to keep the kids in line was even more of a problem.After that I was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern Mississippi for about three years and a half-time studio art instructor and gallery director. And then I was laid off. That’s code for fired. The reason given was that I had only an MA degree and the job required an MFA, which is a terminal degree in studio art. Of course my MA was good enough when they needed me. The real reason I was fired, which I heard through the grape vine, was that the college hired some hotshot in another department who agreed to come only if they also hired his wife, an art teacher. So she got my job and I got the hell out of Mississippi—the end of my teaching career and the beginning of a career as an artist and writer in Olympia, Washington.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Soba: A Square Meal at the Olympia Farmer’s Market

Thurston Talk - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 6:00am



By Lynn West

greene realtyIf you are in the mood for delicious square noodles, as our family often is, brave the long line at Soba.  Eating lunch at the Olympia Farmer’s Market provides options for every culinary taste, but Soba proves to be one of the most popular restaurant choices for many market-goers.

Soba is the second oldest food vendor at the Olympia Farmers' Market and oldest permanent restaurant.

Soba is the second oldest food vendor at the Olympia Farmers’ Market and oldest permanent restaurant.

As the matriarch and owner at Soba, Minh Smith says, “We are the second oldest food venue at the market.  Only San Francisco Street Bakery boasts a longer tenure.

Before the current site opened in 1990, we sold our noodles out of a tiny trailer when the market was down the road off Capitol Way.”

Minh came to Olympia in 1968 from Vietnam and began her restaurant career with her husband in 1973 as owner of Ben Moore’s.  Her daughter, Bonnie Smith, who worked with her Mom for many years at Soba, now spends most of her time at Ben Moore’s.

Over the years, Soba’s menu has expanded from noodles and chicken skewers to include teriyaki, chicken salad, egg rolls and fresh spring rolls.  The Soba noodles, square rather than round like spaghetti or flat like udon are still the signature dish.  Minh explained, “Each restaurant at the market has a specialty and no other restaurant can duplicate it.  Even though Asian curry is distinct from Indian curry, since that is Curry In a Hurry’s trademark dish, you will never find curry at Soba.”

A look at the behind the scenes preparations early on a market day exemplifies both Soba’s family atmosphere and the fresh, healthy quality of the food they serve.   Bibiana Cruz has worked at Soba for fifteen years and is master of the egg roll.  She had already made two large trays before I arrived around ten o’clock and the symmetry of the rolls was amazing.  Take a moment when you next order one to appreciate their precision before you crunch your first bite.

Kim Nguyn (right) and Bibiana Smith work behind the scenes at Soba to prepare for the daily lunch rush.

Kim Nguyn (right) and Bibiana Cruz work behind the scenes at Soba to prepare for the daily lunch rush.

Kim Nguyen, who has worked at Soba since 2010 is in charge of the ever-popular spring roll. She didn’t blink an eye as she gathered fresh ingredients from the prep cook, stuffed and rolled.  She must be flexible, willing to adjust to the market’s demands.  On a slow day, she may make only 50 rolls but on a busy day, as many as 120 rolls pass through her talented hands.

To accommodate folks on their lunch hour, Soba prides itself on quick service.  However, everything is fresh and made from scratch each day. To keep customers happy, and moving, starting early in the day is essential to being ready for the rush.  Minh plans carefully so leftovers are at a minimum.  Still, if noodles are left at 3 o’clock, the staff has a nice evening meal for their families.  One secret I learned? Don’t believe the sign that says spring rolls are only available on certain days.  If Soba is open, Kim is making them.

Around noon on a recent Thursday, I asked the fifteenth person in line, “Is the wait worth it?” Yes is the resounding answer. Carolyn Rice told me she comes to the market every week, and Soba is usually her first stop.  “The service is great, the food is fresh, and they always accommodate my needs,” she explains.

The little ones in my family enjoy slurping the noodles any way they can, often not in the most elegant manner.  Emily Stephen’s girls, Hazel, seven and a half, and Cici who is four, were nicely eating their noodles.  They are definitely beyond the slurping stage.  Hazel says, “I like both the eggs rolls and the soba, but I also like the snow cones!”

Emily Stephens and her daughters Cici (left) and Hazel enjoy a favorite lunch at Soba.

Emily Stephens and her daughters Cici (left) and Hazel enjoy a favorite lunch at Soba.

That’s what is nice about the market – all tastes can be accommodated.  A family at the same table chose Thai Tea from Soba rather than snow cones from the adjacent cart to finish off their meal.

It’s amazing to learn of the friendships forged through the windows of Soba’s tiny 16 by 19 foot restaurant.  Bonnie Smith says, “Over the more than 30 years I worked with my mom at Soba, I have made many life-long friends. I have also watched young children grow up before my eyes, and now they are parents bringing their children to Soba.”

Minh commented on the affordability of the menu items, but says, “ We try to keep the prices as low as we can, but still maintain the quality.  However each year rent and wages go up, so it is a delicate balance.  We always have the loyalty of our customers in mind.”

A quick survey of those in line revealed locals had brought out of town guests from Portland and California to their favorite spot at the Olympia Farmers’ Market. Bonnie Smith explains, “We have never had to advertise as Soba has been self-promoting.  We so value our relationship with all who come to Soba.”

Bibiana adds, “It is amazing to see the same folks coming over and over.”

Soba has become a summer tradition for many hungry market shoppers.  If you haven’t yet become a square noodle lover, make Soba your next lunch stop at the Olympia Farmers’ Market.


Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Thurston Talk - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 6:00am



August is flying by and in our household, the countdown until school starts has begun.  Luckily, we are still counting in the double digits and there is plenty of summer left to play and explore.  And, this weekend offers plenty of options to do just that.  Whether you are looking for family-friendly fun (try Sand in the City) or something just for the grown-ups (head to the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest), there are options galore this weekend. For a full listing of the area’s events check in with the ThurstonTalk events calendar for a daily dose of Thurston County happenings.

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, visit our events calendar.



Long Journey: The Survival of Priest Point Park’s Civil War Cannons

Thurston Talk - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 6:00am



By Jennifer Crooks

volkswagenPriest Point Park, created in 1905, is one of Olympia’s finest parks. In the early 20th century, the city obtained a pair of Civil War cannons from the United States government for the park. Weathering years of change, these cannons have survived their long journey—from the Civil War to decades of residence at Priest Point Park and more recently their home at the Fort Steilacoom Museum. This Museum preserves and interprets the historic Fort Steilacoom site (1849-1868).

The 1863 cannon on display at Fort Steilacoom. Volunteers have restored the cannons for public display. Photo courtesy Jennifer Crooks

The 1863 cannon on display at Fort Steilacoom. Volunteers have restored the cannons for public display. Photo courtesy Jennifer Crooks

In spring 1911, a bill was proposed in Congress to dispose of obsolete government cannons. The editors of “The Olympia Daily Recorder” newspaper praised the efforts of Senator Wesley Livsey Jones (1863-1932) of Washington to obtain cannons for his state. Olympia leaders, supported by local citizens, originally hoped for an iron cannon, but were informed by Senator Jones that only bronze cannons were left and they would need to pay around $300 to purchase a single cannon.

Nevertheless, Olympia leaders believed the cost would be well worth it and make a wonderful addition to Priest Point Park. “The Olympia Daily Recorder” editors on May 4, 1911, stated that a cannon would “make a brave show mounted on the hillside in front of the park pavilion, where ‘Old Glory’ now flies from a towering natural flagpole [a painted snag], and would be in full view from the bay….The cannon would be a distinct addition to the park features, and would be of additional utility in firing Fourth of July salutes, and in saluting United States or foreign naval vessels visiting Olympia harbor from time to time…”

Things moved slowly after the decision was made. H.R. 24458 was approved by Congress on August 24, 1912, with substantial changes from the original plan. It was “An Act Authorizing the Secretary of War, in his discretion, to deliver to certain cities and towns condemned bronze or brass cannon, with their carriages and outfit of cannon balls, and so forth,” with the provision that the federal government would incur no costs in delivering the cannons but the Department of War would retain legal ownership of the cannons.

A circa 1910 postcard showing the cannons in front of the Swiss Chalet. Photo courtesy private collection.

A circa 1910 postcard showing the cannons in front of the Swiss Chalet. Photo courtesy private collection.

The cannons were not being sold, but lent for free to cities around America. The act also specified the locations in twenty-two states that the 105 cannons would be given.  For Washington, that was North Yakima, Ellensburg, Walla Walla, Vancouver, Wenatchee, Bellingham, Everett and Olympia.

Olympia was to receive two Napoleon cannons and a stock of forty eight-inch cannonballs. The City Council accepted the U.S. government’s proposal on November 20, 1912. The cannons were then sent by ship from the Benicia Arsenal in California. The city’s cost was $26.20 – only the freight charge. The historic weapons arrived in Olympia during the first week of February 1913.

By May, the cannons had been placed in front of the Swiss Chalet, the park’s dance and community pavilion. This building stood on the bluff above Budd Inlet on the west side of the park. A grassy area marks the spot today. Following directions sent by the Department of War, workmen set up the cannons on stone and concrete bases with one short pyramid of cannonballs beside each cannon. The cannons were later moved northward to a stone balcony overlooking Budd Inlet. As for the Swiss Chalet, the building became a storage shed and was torn down in the 1960s.

As researched by Fort Steilacoom historians, the two cannons were used by the Union Army during the Civil War. The first was cast by the Revere Copper Company in Boston Massachusetts in 1863. Its 4.62 inch bore, the same as when it was originally made, indicates that it was likely used very little. The second cannon was cast by Henry N. Hopper & Company in Boston, Massachusetts in 1862. The cannon’s five inch bore indicates heavy usage. Both cannon barrels weigh 1220 pounds and are capable of firing a twelve pound cannonball nearly a mile. According to historian Lyle Hegsted, only a third of the 1,150 Napoleon cannons built for the Union survive.

The two cannons, after being in front of the Swiss Chalet, were for a time put on this platform at Priest Point Park, overlooking Budd Inlet. Photo courtesy Jennifer Crooks.

The two cannons, after being in front of the Swiss Chalet, were for a time put on this platform at Priest Point Park, overlooking Budd Inlet. Photo courtesy Jennifer Crooks.

The local cannons’ survival is even more striking when compared to the fate of other cannons assigned to Washington State in H.R. 24458. There is no trace of cannons going to Everett, Ellensburg, Walla Walla and Vancouver. The cannons in Bellingham and (North) Yakima arrived and were displayed in local parks for a time but were melted down as scrap during World War II. The Olympia cannons are the only survivors of this group with exception of a single cannon on display in front of the Chelan County Courthouse in Wenatchee.

After years of harsh weather, occasional vandalism, and even several theft attempts the cannons at Priest Point Park were in need of a new home. The City of Olympia and the Fort Steilacoom Historical Association reached an agreement that sent the two cannons on indefinite loan to the Fort, although the historic weapons remain the legal possession of the Defense Department.  Volunteers at Fort Steilacoom carefully recreated replica cannon carriages and built a shed to house the cannons for display.

Despite all odds, the cannons have survived and remain accessible to the public. It is a fitting end to the cannons’ long journey from the Civil War to the present and today visitors to Fort Steilacoom can view the cannons and learn their role in history.

Mud Bay Announces Employee Ownership Plan

Thurston Talk - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 2:14pm



Submitted by Mud Bay 

With a dash of a pen — and years of pre-planning and hard work — the 324 employees of Mud Bay became owners of the Pacific Northwest’s largest pet retail company today.

Mud Bay co-CEOs Lars and Marisa Wulff announced the new Employee Stock Ownership Plan or “ESOP” Thursday at the company’s annual employee “Mudstock” training event, held on the campus of Green River Community College. Its stores and offices were closed Aug. 20 so that all employees could participate in the day’s events — a mix of education and team-building activities built around a Woodstock theme.

Currently, Mud Bay is owned by 35 shareholders, including founder, Elsa Wulff, co-CEOs Lars and Marisa Wulff and a handful of family, friends and company staff. Investments made by that core group were instrumental in expanding the store from one to nine stores, and set in motion the continued growth and success of Mud Bay today.

“We could not be where we are now without the hard work and dedication of our staff – our ‘Muddies’ — and the quality of our leadership team,” said Lars Wulff, Mud Bay co-CEO.

“This is something we’ve dreamed of for years, but the company wasn’t ready. Now, we can make the transition to a whole company of owners. By continuing to focus on our three-part mission, staying true to our values and creating the Mud Bay Experience for every dog and cat owner, we believe this ESOP, and the company, will be very successful.”

Wulff said this year the company will have almost doubled its sales in the four years from 2011-2015.

“By continuing to grow, we should all benefit by watching our ESOP accounts grow nicely in the years to come,” he added. “And that’s really the benefit of an ESOP – it’s the ability to share that success with the people who created it: our Muddies.”

Mud Bay currently operates 33 stores in Washington and Oregon. Additional stores are set to open this year, including two locations in Oregon (Hillsboro, Tualatin) and two in Washington state (Sammamish, Bellingham).

Today, ESOPs are the most common form of employee ownership plans in the U.S., with more than 7,000 companies offering plans to more than 13.5 million employees.

To be eligible for the Mud Bay plan, employees must (1) be age 18 or older; (2) log 1,000 work hours (roughly 20 hours per week for 50 weeks); and (3) stay with the company through the last day of the ESOP plan year (Dec. 31).

Under the plan, Mud Bay will dedicate part of its profits toward the ESOP. Every year, or every other year depending on the company’s annual performance, the ESOP will use the money it receives from the company to buy shares of Mud Bay stock from Mud Bay’s current owners. These shares are directed into an employee stock ownership trust fund, which allocates the Mud Bay shares to individual ESOP accounts—one account for each eligible Mud Bay staffer. The size of each staffer’s allocation is based on how much the staffer earned in wages during the previous calendar year.

When staff retire or otherwise leave, Mud Bay buys the shares back at whatever the current share value is. Retirees can then spend or invest the money as they see fit. Mud Bay will also take the shares it has purchased from retired staff and place them back into the ESOP so that it can allocate them to the next generation of employees.

“Today’s announcement reflects the mission and spirit of Mud Bay,” said Marisa Wulff, co-CEO and vice president of store development. “Our employees invest a lot of themselves in their work. They train to become deeply knowledgeable about natural products for dogs and cats. They work with suppliers to provide the best possible products on our shelves,” she said.

“As a result, they build relationships with customers, which creates a positive relationship and successful stores. So for them to reap the benefits of that success is very fitting.”

Mud Bay’s growth and focus on continuous improvement have had a positive impact on the company.  In July, Mud Bay was named Pet Retailer of the Year for 2015 by Pet Business Magazine. The publication singled out the company for warm, modern stores that play host to service-centered staff who focus on solutions over sales.

“It’s hard to not have a good experience at a Mud Bay store,” added Lars Wulff, “and that’s what makes us so proud of today’s announcement. Our people have really made the difference for us and our customers, transforming the practice of pet retail while contributing to the long-term health of dogs and cats. We’re proud of that, and we’re excited to share that success with our employees.”

About Mud Bay
Founded in 1988 just outside of Olympia, Washington, Mud Bay is the Pacific Northwest’s largest retailer focused on healthy, natural nutrition for dogs and cats. With 33 locations in Washington and Oregon, Mud Bay is focused on providing wonderful shopping experiences for pets and their owners. For more information about Mud Bay, visit or follow them on Twitter: @MudBay

Tumwater School District and TOGETHER! Host Back-to-School Community Event

Thurston Talk - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 1:43pm



Submitted by TOGETHER!

Free Back to Basics Community Event served over 250 Tumwater students with back-to-school health services, community connections, and more.

Free Back to Basics Community Event served over 250 Tumwater students with back-to-school health services, community connections, and more.

Tumwater School District students got free back-to-school help on August 18. The “Back-to- Basics Community Event,” hosted by TOGETHER! and Tumwater School District, offered no-cost immunizations and sports physicals, access to community health services and more. The goal was to eliminate barriers, increase school engagement, and provide additional access for families’ health care needs prior to the start of the year.This truly was a community effort to meet the health needs of our community.

The event, which took place at Tumwater Middle School, was a success due in part to the over 70 community, medical and school district volunteers. Over 200 families attended the event. Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps administered 50 no-cost immunizations to 30 pre-school through 12th grade students. 219 middle and high school students were able to access no-cost sports physicals through a variety of volunteer medical providers. Families could access the DSHS Mobile Community Service Office to update food benefits and learn about potential services. SeaMar Community Health Center’s community navigator answered questions about insurance access.

Volunteers pitched in to serve over 250 students from the Tumwater School District.

Volunteers pitched in to serve over 250 students from the Tumwater School District.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County provided healthy snacks, and Tumwater School District staff were on hand to answer backto-school questions. Thank you to our additional partners: Olympia Orthopaedic Associates, Surgical Associates, Thurston Country Public Health and Social Services, Providence Tumwater Valley Physical Therapy, Providence Family Practice, and DZines.

With these services completed, Tumwater students are ready to engage in learning on the first day of school.
Tumwater School District works with TOGETHER! to implement a community schools approach in their district, which increases student engagement and community/school partnerships.

The program is funded by the school district and the Community Investment Partnership. TOGETHER! is a local nonprofit organization that engages and mobilizes families, schools and the community to advance the health, safety and success of our youth. Learn more at

Thurston County Healthy Homes Program Announces Free Volunteer Training

Thurston Talk - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:53pm



Submitted by Thurston County Healthy Homes Program

What: Thurston County’s Healthy Homes Program trains volunteers to provide free home visits to Thurston County residents to encourage behavior and actions to promote healthy living spaces – such as dealing with and preventing mold, creating healthy indoor air, reducing asthma triggers, reducing exposure to toxins, and more. We have a free volunteer training coming up this fall! You can learn all about housing-related health risks and how to prevent and reduce them. This training includes expert guest speakers, field trips, and opportunities to put what you learn into practice. It’s fun and the knowledge gained is useful in our daily lives.

Who: This training is for people interested (or who work) in environmental health, housing, improving health, and giving back to the community. No prior experience is necessary; the training teaches all you need to know to conduct Healthy Homes Visits in pairs. These visits are free, voluntary, and completely confidential. We don’t do any sort of enforcement or mediation. We are invited to do the visit by the resident, where we perform a checklist and walk-through, and based on what we find we provide information, guidance, and resource lists to the residents to help them take the next steps. We are flexible with volunteer hours for people who will use the knowledge and skills from the training in their regular work.

Why: Housing conditions can cause health problems or make existing health problems much worse. This is especially the case for children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. There are many simple, low or no cost ways for people to reduce the risks of housing-related health issues and our goal is to educate and empower residents to create habits that promote the healthiest possible living space. Program staff are available to work with and help volunteers to feel comfortable and confident in providing Healthy Homes Visits.

When: The training starts September 15 and runs every Tuesday from 6-9 p.m. through November 17, 2015. This is a total of 30 hours of fun, hands-on training and afterwards we ask volunteers to provide 30 hours of volunteer service (which is about 10 home visits) as their schedules allow. Volunteers can also put in time by participating in booths at community events, performing outreach, or working on special projects. We are flexible with volunteer hours for people who will use the knowledge and skills from the training in their regular work.

Where: The training is held at the Thurston County Public Health at 412 Lilly Rd. NE, Olympia, 98506; across from St. Peter’s Hospital. Intercity Transit bus routes # 60, 62A, and 62B serve the area. To sign up or find out more, contact coordinator, Elisa Kaufmann at  or 360-867-2674 (TDD 360-867-2603.) If transportation is an issue for anyone who is interested, please don’t let that stop you from applying. We are close to bus routes and there is a good chance that volunteers attending the training can carpool.

Healthy Homes Program website

Volunteer Job Description

Volunteer Application


West Olympia Pavement Preservation Work Concludes, Traffic Delays Expected

Thurston Talk - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:48pm



Submitted by The City of Olympia

On Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22 (weather permitting), the City’s Contractor will be grinding off old pavement markings and applying new plastic pavement markings (including bicycle symbols, turn arrows, and crosswalk striping) to the newly chip sealed surfaces on West Bay Drive, Road 65, Division Street and Black Lake Boulevard. This will complete the pavement preservation work on these roads.

Work will take place between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. and follow the schedule below. Motorist should expect some lane restrictions and delays during the pavement marking operations. Flaggers will direct motorists through the construction area.

Friday, August 21

  • West Bay Drive NW (from Garfield Avenue to Schneider Hill Road);
  • Road 65 NW (from 14th Avenue to 20th Avenue); and
  • Division Street NW (from Harrison Avenue to 4th Avenue)

Saturday, August 22

  • Division Street NW (from Harrison Avenue to 4th Avenue);
  • Black Lake Boulevard SW (from 4th Avenue to Capital Mall Drive to 4th Avenue); and
  • Black Lake Boulevard SW (from Hwy 101 to south city limits near Hope Community Church)


Olympia Family Theater Announces 2015-16 Mainstage Season

Thurston Talk - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:42pm



Submitted by Olympia Family Theater

Olympia Family Theater is located in downtown Olympia and stages plays appropriate for all ages.

Olympia Family Theater is located in downtown Olympia and stages plays appropriate for all ages.

Olympia Family Theater is proud to announce our 2015-16 Mainstage Season.  The season will feature five productions in our intimate 106-seat theater, including Mercy Watson to the Rescue, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlotte’s Web, Peter Rabbit and Me, and the musical A Year with Frog and Toad. We are thrilled to bring these fantastic shows to the stage as Olympia Family Theater celebrates its 10th season. Each show has been selected for both its connection to literature and all-ages appeal. Based in downtown Olympia, OFT is a nonprofit community theater that engages audiences of all ages in performances and programs that entertain and educate.


Mercy Watson to the Rescue

By Kate Di Camillo. Adapted for the stage by Victoria Stewart

Oct. 9- Nov. 1 (Fri- Sun only)

Pay-What-You-Can Performance: Friday October 16th 7:00pm

Recommended for all ages

This wild comic adventure play is best enjoyed with buttered toast!

The Watsons move into a new neighborhood with their adorable pig named Mercy (whom they call their porcine wonder). Mercy loves driving cars, going trick-or-treating, and a good chase, but above all else, Mercy loves buttered toast! Just how far will this mischievous pig go on her quest for more toast?  This play is filled with all kinds of colorful characters, inadvertent heroism and hilarious trouble in this stage adaptation of the wildly popular chapter book series.


A Charlie Brown Christmas

by Charles M. Schulz. Stage Adaptation by Eric Schaeffer.

Nov. 27- Dec. 20 (Fri- Sun only)

Pay-What-You-Can Performance: Friday December 4, 2015 7:00pm

Recommended for all ages

The sweetest, simplest, Charlie Browniest Christmas of them all!

“Christmastime is here…Happiness and cheer….” Bring your family to the theater this season to see this cherished holiday classic – live on stage. Lights are twinkling red and green, but Charlie Brown has the blues because of the over-commercialization of Christmas. Lucy suggests he direct the annual Christmas play, which ends up helping not just Charlie Brown, but the entire Peanuts gang discovers the true meaning of Christmas.


Charlotte’s Web

By E.B. White. Adapted by Joseph Robinette.

January 29- Feb. 14, (Thurs- Sun)

Pay-What-You-Can Performance: Thursday, February 4, 2016 7:00pm

Recommended for all ages

Terrific, radiant, humble…and you should see the pig!

Charlotte’s Web is “the best American children’s book of the past two hundred years” according to The Children’s Literature Association. It is the story of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of Charlotte, a friendly spider, saves her pig Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat little pigs. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passage of time, we are reminded to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things.


Peter Rabbit and Me

Based on Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Written by Aurand Harris.

March 18- April 3, (Fri- Sun only)

Pay-What-You-Can Performance: Friday March 25, 2016 7:00pm

Recommended for all ages

Four little rabbits, one spectacular adventure!

A delightfully joyous story of Peter Rabbit, the little blue-coated rabbit who has been enchanting the world since he first hopped out of the pages of a story book and into children’s hearts. It is also a story about Beatrix Potter, the little girl who imagined the story about her favorite pet, a mischievous rabbit. In this play we get a glimpse of her home life with her father, brother, and governess, and see her imagination in action when suddenly all the people in Beatrix’s life are transformed into characters we know well, and she steps straight into the story of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”.


A Year with Frog and Toad

Based on the books by Arnold Lobel. Music by Robert Reale. Book and Lyrics by Willie Reale.

May 13- June 5 (Fri- Sun only)

Pay-What-You-Can Performance: Friday May 20, 2016 7:00pm

Recommended for all ages

Celebrate friendship through all four seasons with the adventures of our favorite heroes, Frog and Toad!

Arnold Lobel’s treasured characters hop from page to stage in a story of friendship and adventure. Celebrate friendship as our heroes, Frog and Toad, weather all four seasons with their animal friends. Eternally optimistic Frog and the somewhat grumpy Toad plant flowers, swim, rake leaves, enjoy the holidays and celebrate the simple things in life. Ordinary events like baking cookies and receiving a letter in the mail become delightfully humorous escapades in this whimsical musical tale.

Advance ticket purchase is recommended due to limited seating and can be made online or by phone with Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Tickets are available 24 hours from our website: Box office hours: 2 hours before each performance. Walk-up tickets can be purchased at our Box Office with cash, check or credit card.


A Walk Down Squaxin Islands Climate Change Road

Squaxin Natural Resources Blog - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 10:11am

Some of you might be wondering what we as a tribe are doing about climate change? How is Climate Change effecting our first foods like shellfish, salmon, and harvestable plants? As the Climate Change Ecologist Trainee for the Tribe these are things I think about quite often. I have collected various graphs, charts,and images that I hope will resonate with you about what climate change is and how first nations are being affected. You will see two Links below, The first is a short video about indigenous people and climate change. I have also attached a presentation that I presented to our tribal council and I felt as though I left them wanting more information about Climate Change here in the Pacific Northwest. I hope you as well are left wanting more information, I would be happy to email anyone more links and media that illustrate issues related to climate change or just sit down and talk about Climate Change. Stay tuned for my next exciting post about Ocean Acidification!



Categories: Local Environment

The Life and Death of King John

South Sound Arts - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 9:54am

Animal Fire Theatre’s annual Shakespeare in the Park
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 20, 2015from Left: Allison Zoe Schneider, Dennis Worrell, Kate Ayers (atop the tower), Brian Jansen, Brian Hatcher. Photo by Kate Arvin.This summer’s Shakespeare in the Park by Animal Fire Theatre tackles one of the bard’s lesser known plays, King John. It is a difficult play to follow, primarily perhaps, because it is little known. Since plays such as Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet are so celebrated it is much easier to understand them, but since fewer people know who Philip the Bastard and Lady Blanch and Lady Constance are, King John can be difficult to understand. That’s why a synopsis is printed in the program and why director Scott Douglas encouraged the audience to study the synopsis before the play starts.Added to that difficulty are the usual distractions of outdoor theater: passing trucks and motorcycles, airplanes overhead, and the night I attended a dog off leash who got excited and barked a couple of times while watching the play, which was distracting but sort of funny, but then tried to join in a sword fight on stage, which was not funny. Please, people, think twice about bringing your dog; and if you do please leash them during the performance.Yet one other difficulty: one of the actors, Pug Bujeaud, got sick and was replaced at the last minute by Jen Ryles, founder of Olympia Family Theater, who had to be on book but did a commendable job of acting despite being hard to hear. Some of the other actors were also hard to hear, exacerbated because the slope of the ground meant much of the audience was sitting quite a distance from the stage area.Even with these problems, it is an entertaining play. Typical of Shakespeare, it combines history, tragedy and comedy and features larger-than-life characters. The amount of bloodshed is considerably less than in many of Shakespeare’s tragedies and history plays.It begins when an ambassador from France (David Shoffner) demands that English King John (Brian Hatcher) renounce his throne in favor of Arthur, whom the French King, Philip (Dennis Worrell) believes to be the rightful heir to the throne. War, intrigue, religious disputes and a marriage between Lewis (Maddox Pratt), the son of King Philip, and King John’s niece, Blanche (J Benway) ensue — all of which leads eventually to the poisoning of King John.Hatcher is a strong presence as King John, and Worrell is strong and fierce as King Philip. The clashes between these two are like a standoff between two immovable objects, as are the hot war of words between Elinor of Aquitaine (Ryle) and Lady Constance (Christine Goode), mother of Arthur, who is fearless and strong and backs down from no one.One of the most engaging characters is Philip (Brian Wayne Jansen), the bastard son of Richard the Lionhearted, not to be confused with Philip the king of France. I had a hard time keeping track of how Philip the Bastard fit in with the various warring factions. He seemed at times to be a go-between or reconciler and at other times a warrior for King John, but mostly he seemed to be looking out for his own self-interests. Though it was difficult to understand his part in the story, Jansen’s acting was great to watch. So was Kate Ayers'. She provided a lot of comedy in the roles of Lord Pembroke and First Citizen, Warden of Angiers, Brittany.There are a lot of gender busting roles in this production, including Allison Zoe Schneider, who was a good young Arthur and doubled as Prince Henry and as a messenger, and Maddox Pratt, who was outstanding as King Philip’s son, Lewis.By-the-way, Richard the Lion Hearted is the same Richard who was prominent in the Robin Hood legends, but Arthur is not the Arthur from Camelot. Shakespeare was not concerned with historical accuracy.King John, 6: 30 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays through Aug. 23, Priest Point Park, Olympia (park in the lot by the playground on the west side of the park and walk into the meadow behind the bathrooms). Free, donations accepted.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

The Aloha Club Collection exhibition at Tacoma Art Museum

South Sound Arts - Thu, 08/20/2015 - 9:48am

 Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 20, 2015
“Burnt Offering,” pastel by Randy Hayes, courtesy of Tacoma Art Museum, gift of the Aloha Club

Selections from the Aloha Club Collection now showing at the Tacoma Art Museum includes 21 diverse works in painting, printmaking, ceramics, photography, jewelry and textiles by well-known regional artists described in the press release as “emerging artists in new media” and “historically important yet overlooked Northwest artists.”The Aloha Club is a women’s club formed in 1892 to support Northwest culture. They began collecting regional artists in 1948, and gifted their collection to TAM in 1971. A little less than half their collection is represented in this show. Included are such regional luminaries as Randy Hayes, Merrill Wagner, Marie Watt and Matika Wilbur. (In the collection but sadly not included in this show are photos by Mary Randlett and at least one painting by Michael Spafford; perhaps TAM decided these have been shown too often, but that didn’t stop them from including William Ivy’s “Blues and Whites,” which has been shown multiple times over the past three years and is one of my favorite works in the museum’s collection.)Watt is the artist responsible for the wonderful curved spire of blue blankets in front of the museum. In this show she has a wall-hanging piece (I’ll call it a quilt for lack of a better descriptor) titled “Tear This Wall Down.” It is made of reclaimed blankets, satin binding and thread. Does the title refer to the Berlin Wall and Reagan’s famous admonition to tear it down? Probably. The image is an architectonic structure of multicolored bands of wool that looks like a craggy wall or two mountain peaks. There is much to contemplate in this work, culturally and aesthetically.Perhaps the most striking painting in the collection is Hayes’s “Burnt Offering,” a brilliantly colored pastel of two figures in the dark of night with faces and hands lighted as if by holding flashlights under their chins — dramatic, Halloween-like imagery. This is a powerful painting that verges on melodrama without crossing that line.There are also three photos from Wilbur’s Project 562, an ambitious photographic study of Native American culture that TAM showed in its entirety a year ago. Boyer Gonzales is unknown to me, but seeing his oil painting “Ancient Site-Delphi” makes me want to see more of his work. It is a dark and ominous abstract landscape that pictures a stream running through a canyon. In its solid, bulky structure it seems like a cross between a Cezanne and a Marsden Hartley.I was intrigued by a series of four etchings by Thomas Handford, a Tacoma artist from the early 20th century most known as an illustrator of children’s books. I liked his “Cherry Street New York,” 1920, and his “Merry-Go-Round” with severe foreshortening that makes the riders seem to be tipping over.I was also impressed with Vanessa Helder’s simple little watercolor “Water Tower” from 1939, which looks a lot like paintings by the early modernists Charles Demuth and Charles Sheeler. Patty Warashina’s “Amazed” is a wall sculpture in porcelain and Plexiglas that is inventive, funny and horrifying, depending on your point of view; and technically flawless. Porcelain female nudes—every one of them bald headed and with identical figures — are trapped in a maze and trying to help each other out. Also trapped in the maze are giant rats as large as the women. It gives new meaning to the phrase “trapped like rats in a maze.”Tacoma Art Museum, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays–Sundays, $14; Student (6-17), Military, Senior (65+) $12; Family $35 (2 adults and up to 4 children under 18).
Children 5 and under and members free. Third Thursdays free from 5-8 p.m., 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 253-272-4258,
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Trans FX play Olympia this weekend!

K Records - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 3:32pm
An Olympia treat! Trans FX, about to release their new album Into the Blu [KLP259], will play an all ages show Friday evening at Obsidian, 414 4th Ave. E, Downtown Olympia.  Also playing are LAKES from Australia (not to be confused with the Olympia combo LAKE) and Montaña de Oro (from Olympia!). The show starts at […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Comments on New Deschutes Flood Map Due Oct. 15

Thurston Talk - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 7:41am



Submitted by Thurston County Emergency Management

It can be hard to imagine the devastation that floods can bring to Thurston County communities as the warm, dry summer stretches on, but that’s exactly what emergency management officials want area property owners to do when they review the updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps for the Deschutes River watershed.

“We need people who have property in the Deschutes watershed to take a close look at these revised maps and send in their comments if they find any errors or wish to dispute any of the revisions,” said Andrew Kinney, Thurston County Emergency Management Coordinator. “We want to make sure the public is well aware of the map changes, and that they’re ready for any flood insurance rate changes that might come out of it.”

The revised maps for the Deschutes River watershed area were unveiled at an open house meeting back in June hosted by Thurston County Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The revised maps show some changes to designated Special Flood Hazard Areas in the Deschutes watershed, and also show changes to the insurance premium risk zones, which are used to help determine the costs of the monthly insurance premiums that watershed property owners will pay for national flood insurance coverage. Public comments on the revised maps must be submitted by Thursday, October 15.

Information and links for viewing the revised maps and submitting comments are available on the Thurston County Emergency Management website at Hard copies of the maps are also available for viewing at the county’s Permit Assistance Center at the County Courthouse complex in Olympia. Contact Andrew Kinney, Emergency Management Coordinator with questions and comments at or at (360) 867-2827.


National Park Service Celebrates 99th Birthday with Free Entry and Special Programs

Thurston Talk - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 6:00am



By Douglas Scott

capital medical centerOn August 25, the National Park Service turns 99-years-old. To celebrate,  the park service is kicking off a year-long celebration to honor the first century of wilderness, wonder and the beauty we have protected. Largely considered to be America’s best idea, the National Parks that span our country have inspired hundreds of millions of visitors each year. Washington State is lucky enough to claim three of the most iconic National Parks as its own, and on August 25, entry to these and all of the other National Parks in America will be free for all to enter.

During the free entry day celebration on Tuesday, August 25, both Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks will be host fantastic talks and activities for those who enter the park. Whether you are looking for lectures, walks through flower-filled meadows, or even a trek through the dense and lush rainforests, both parks have something for everyone.

Education intern Emily Frost swears in a Jr. Ranger at the Cougar Rock Campground National Park Service. Photo by Kevin Bacher.

Education intern Emily Frost swears in a Jr. Ranger at the Cougar Rock Campground National Park Service. Photo by Kevin Bacher.

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is Washington’s most popular National Park and the sixth most popular National Park in America. It is a park that needs to be discovered, explored and visited often. To celebrate both the park and the birthday of the National Park Service, numerous events will take place throughout the day on August 25. From ranger-led programs on the coast to walks through the rainforest and both a talk and walk around the panoramic wonder of Hurricane Ridge, families, hikers and modern day explorers of all ages and abilities will find the perfect event on this fee-free day. A full schedule of the entire summer’s worth of ranger events can be found on the park’s website.

Out on the coast at Kalaloch, there will be a “Ranger’s Favorites!” event from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Meeting at the Kalaloch Lodge gazebo, this one-hour, hands-on presentation is sure to get you excited about the Washington Coast and the stunning beaches of Olympic National Park. If the tide is out, the ranger may even trek down to the coast and show off the tide pools, bluffs, plants and animals of the region.

Deep in the Hoh Rainforest, rangers will be leading a “Rain Forest Walk,” taking an hour-and-a-half trek to hike Hall of Mosses and/or the Spruce Nature Trail. During this hike, rangers will talk about the huge trees and ferns, as well as share information about the local animals and the history of the region. For anyone who wants to know more about the temperate rainforests of America, this is for you!

lake cushman camping

Olympic National Park is Washington’s most popular National Park and the sixth most popular National Park in America.

High above the city of Port Angeles, rangers at the Hurricane Ridge-area of Olympic National Park will be giving “Terrace Talks” and “Meadow Walks” for those interested in learning more about this high alpine environment. The “Terrace Talks” will take place at 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and will cover a wide range of topics during the twenty minute chats framed by a view of the Olympic Mountains in the distance. If sitting doesn’t sound fun, the park is also holding “Meadow Walks,” which are one-hour guided walks that showcase the stunning views, awesome wildlife and beautiful wildflowers around the area.

Mount Rainier National Park

In the Cascades, Mount Rainier National Park will also play host to activities at both Paradise and Sunrise — no entry fee or Discover Pass required. The programs vary in length and topic but are a fantastic and educational opportunity you don’t want to pass up. Rangers from the National Park Service are able to answer nearly every question and will make even a cloudy day on the mountain one to remember. A full list of ranger-led events at Mount Rainier National Park can be found on the park service’s  website.

Starting at Paradise, three events will be held on the 99th birthday of our National Parks. Starting at 10:30 a.m., visitors can join the “Subalpine Saunter,” which discusses the ecology of Mount Rainier. The saunter meets at the flagpole in front of the visitor center. The one-mile round-trip trek will take just over one hour. At 2:00 p.m., guests in the park can once again return to the flagpole in front of the visitor center and participate in the “Mountain in Motion” talk, which also takes just over an hour and is approxiamately 1.5-miles in length. For those sticking around in the evening, the “Paradise Inn Evening Program” is held at 8:45 p.m. The 45-minute program will cover a variety of topics.

Park visitors enjoying a ranger talk and the sights from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

Park visitors enjoying a ranger talk and the sights from Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

For those heading over to Mount Rainier’s Sunrise region, there will be one activity for visitors to enjoy on the Park Service’s birthday. Held both at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., the “Sunrise Afternoon Guided Walk” is a great way to learn about the Sunrise area. Focusing on natural and cultural history, this 45-minute walk and talk provides great information from rangers who know the region well. If interested, meet at the flagpole in front of the Sunrise Visitor Center 5 to 10 minutes before the start of the event.

For those interested in heading up to North Cascades National Park, a full schedule of events and activities can be found on the park’s website.

The National Park Service’s 99th birthday celebration is a great way to kick-off a year of outdoor fun and exploration. Want to experience more fee-free fun throughout the year? Check out this list of fee-free days and enjoy all our National Park’s have to offer, at no charge.


Quality Thrives at Laura’s Alteration and Tailor Express

Thurston Talk - Wed, 08/19/2015 - 6:00am



Laura's Alteration and Tailor Express

With a commitment to quality, customer service and skilled artisanship, Laura trains her teams personally to ensure a perfect finished product. Photo credit: Kathryn Millhorn.

“The difference between style and fashion is quality,” decreed Giorgio Armani. Whether you’re looking to transform a vintage heirloom, customize an off-the-rack find, or want to bring an entirely new design to life, the skilled seamstresses at Laura’s Alteration and Tailor Express can do it all.

Newly located in the west-side Capital Mall, the Olympia location celebrates its August grand opening with sales throughout the fall. With the addition of the new store, Laura’s Alternations and Tailor Express proudly operates eight locations from Bellingham to Portland.

With formal training and more than 20 years of experience under her belt, Laura is an accomplished, experienced seamstress. She studied fashion design as an undergraduate in China before moving to Japan to finish a Masters degree in the same subject. She has been in the field for two decades since and passes her skill and knowledge on to all the seamstresses Laura’s Alteration and Tailor Express employs.

This key element of “training the right person” is crucial for their customer-based business model. Laura and her staff acknowledge that, “we know there are many other competitors, but we have a service first business.” With overall goals of quality, speed, creativity and willingness to tackle any project, Laura and her team are up for any challenge.

Laura's Alteration and Tailor Express

Laura’s commitment to quality can be seen in partnerships with Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, David’s Bridal, and Wilson’s Leather. Photo credit: Kathryn Millhorn.

Most people turn to tailors for simple jobs like hemming pants or replacing broken zippers, but at Laura’s, that’s simply the beginning. Laura’s can create, modify, or repair just about anything with its “Bring it in and we’ll do our best” attitude. Since Capital Mall doesn’t have an on-site shoe repair facility, Laura’s is willing to tackle the challenge. Need a winter long-sleeved shirt converted to summer short sleeves? Laura’s will do it. With experience repairing everything from luggage to baseball hats, sewing patches patches on motorcycle jackets and creating entirely custom outfits based on just a description or a photo from a magazine, there’s no project too tough for the team at Laura’s.

Perhaps best of all, the staff at Laura’s is proud of their quick turnaround times. Pant hems can be fixed while you wait, and same day service on other jobs can be performed at no additional cost. Simply drop your items off and enjoy the mall’s many amenities while you wait.

For custom orders, no completed pattern is needed. Laura’s training means that after taking measurements, she can design a piece inspired by a picture or even a detailed, descriptive conversation. She asks key questions about the garment, event and pricing to ensure that customers “get what they want.” Many times, the result is even better than what the customer envisioned.

Such a consistent level of quality has not gone unnoticed. Large chains like Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Wilson’s Leather, Harley Davidson, David’s Bridal and Dolce Bleu all send alteration work to Laura and her staff.

Laura's Alteration and Tailor Express

Laura’s Capital Mall location is her 8th store and will feature Grand Opening discounts through the fall. Photo credit: Kathryn Millhorn.

Fancy occasions like proms, weddings and black tie events are also easy and quick. Laura strives to keep her “hours flexible and convenient for the customer.” Bridal work typically takes 2 to 3 days to complete, as all machines are thoroughly cleaned before working on wedding gowns. This guarantees no stray colored thread or dye marks the dress itself. Because such occasions can be stressful for the participants, it’s not unusual for last-minute changes to arise. Whether it’s a last-minute prom dress disaster, an unexpected job interview, or an unforeseen funeral, Laura “cannot say no, and there are often appreciative tears” upon completion.

With hours from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, it’s easy to drop by with any questions. No job is too big, small, urgent or complicated. Ask about Laura’s Grand Opening and student discounts as well.

The thought of visiting a tailor may feel old fashioned or expensive, but Laura and her team prove the opposite. Whether you’re breathing new life into a vintage find, recycling last year’s jeans into this summer’s shorts or repairing favorite sneakers, purse linings or dog collars, there’s nothing like giving tried and true favorites a second chance. Stop by, you’ll be glad you did.

Visit Laura’s Capital Mall location with questions or call 888-988-6425.

Laura’s Alteration and Tailor Express
625 Black Lake Boulevard
Olympia, WA 98502


Code Enforcement Leaves Olympia Resident Frustrated

Janine's Little Hollywood - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 11:20pm

Above: Melinda Spencer arrived early at tonight's Olympia city council meeting to give public comment about an alleged commercial marijuana grow operation in her northeast neighborhood. Spencer believes that three recent utility line fires near her home were caused by the operation. 
By Janine
Code enforcement for residents of the City of Olympia is an issue fraught with emotions. Law abiding citizens turn to the City of Olympia for help and information regarding sidewalks blocked with vegetation, abandoned or dilapidated houses used by the homeless, abandoned vehicles, busy drug houses operating in established neighborhoods, and nuisance dogs.
Commercial businesses like the Grande Terrace on Capitol Lake, a wedding and event venue on Deschutes Parkway, also test neighbor's nerves, when they are blatantly allowed to skirt the law, operating in a residential neighborhood and violating the terms of temporary use permits, as well as known federal and state law and city ordinances.
With the help of a concerned group of neighborhood volunteers between 2010 and 2014, the city did pass a repeat violator ordinance and developed an action plan to improve code enforcement but a functional online system that would allow citizens to track the status of code enforcement complaints has yet to be implemented.
Not surprisingly, a 2014 opinion survey of Olympia’s city government services by Elway Research published last November indicates that code enforcement is lagging.
Out of thousands contacted, the poll surveyed 952 residents drawn from a list of residential utility customers provided by the city.  Survey respondents were asked about the quality of life in Olympia and their assessment of city government programs and services.
Performance lagged behind expectations for six services: neighborhood planning, permits and code enforcement, sidewalks, land use, street maintenance and police patrols.
Neighbor Concerned About Alleged Marijuana Grow Operation
Tonight, northeast neighborhood resident Melinda Spencer addressed the Olympia city council about an alleged unpermitted, commercial marijuana growing operation. The home is 200 feet from Roosevelt Elementary School.
Earlier this month, Spencer reached out to Little Hollywood for assistance and granted an interview to explain her plight.
Spencer said that she believes this operation has caused three fires on the power line outside her home since June 29, causing a transformer fire, lit the lawn on fire, and closed the street. She is concerned about the electrical safety of her home, and other homes in her neighborhood, as well as other issues.
In her comments to city council tonight, Spencer said, “Because this business continues to operate unchecked, we are bracing for the next power surge and fire. The city better hope that the melted service line doesn't fall on a school bus, Intercity Transit bus, U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, or anyone else who lives or travels on our street. We need city staff to investigate this situation and take the appropriate actions. And I shouldn't have to lobby City Council to get our staff to do their job.” 
Spencer mentioned that a group of volunteers worked for four years with city staff from 2010 until 2014 to develop workable solutions, but which city managers have largely ignored.
“You should be very concerned about the lack of accountability that has been allowed to take root among our city staff. Volunteers work for years to cultivate strong neighborhoods, but city staff demolish those gains when they ignore clear code violations and allow unsafe and illegal commercial operations to flourish in our communities,” said Spencer.   “I’m sure the individual code enforcement officers took their positions with the city with every intention of doing a good job for the citizens of Olympia. But something is broken at top levels of city management, and this breakdown has cultivated a culture of inaction among key city staff. Olympia will never grow into its potential if residents' efforts to build strong neighborhoods are obliterated by the lack of accountability among management at City Hall,” she said.
Little Progress and the Run-Around
In her interview with Little Hollywood, Melinda Spencer said she works fulltime and researching city codes has been exhausting.
“This is not what I do for living, and I might have missed something, but I want to know what universe I am in that it takes all this work to get city staff to help us with this situation. I’ve lived here 18 years and I’ve never needed code enforcement. Now that I do, I need them to help me,” said Spencer.
Spencer brought her concern to the attention of the city code enforcement staff in June. She also informed Puget Sound Energy (PSE). As her research increased, so did her email communications to the city. Most recently, on August 13, she informed the city council of her concerns, and received no reply. 
In an email to Spencer on August 7, the city's code enforcement manager, Todd Cunningham, said that the service line from the pole to the home is regulated by PSE – the city has no jurisdiction over this part of the electrical system. He referred the situation to Chris Grabowski, the city’s lead code enforcement officer in charge of complaints for the Eastside.
On August 11, Grabowski referred Spencer to Jeff Payne at PSE, who informed Grabowski that PSE was looking into the line failure but they had not made a determination yet on the cause of the fire. According to Spencer, PSE has had to repair the service line to the property three times since late June.
Grabowski also told Spencer that her issue was not a code enforcement issue, but a law enforcement issue. Grabowski forwarded her concern to the Olympia police, who then forwarded it to the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force.
The business is not listed as licensed on a list of marijuana license applicants by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB). The WSLCB does not issue licenses for locations that are personal residences.
The residence is a small home on a 0.17 acre residential lot owned by Michael Saulino of Ocean Shores, according to Thurston County Assessor’s Office information.
Attempts by neighbors to reach Saulino in early August were unsuccessful. The homeowners sent Saulino a certified letter, but have seen no changes at the home.
“The pot-growing operation continues as usual and it does not look like the tenants are being evicted. We continue to be concerned about fires resulting from these activities,” said Spencer.
Spencer showed Little Hollywood two photos that show how the service line to that property was taped and clamped after the most recent power surge and line fire on July 30.
According to Spencer, a PSE employee who was at her home to determine if her power supply has been affected by the surges said that the fixes to the melted service wire may not appear to be safe, especially if the pot-growing equipment continues to draw extraordinary amounts of energy.
Spencer’s husband, Keith, and PSE staff were given tours by the tenants of the marijuana operation inside the home as well as two attached and detached garages, and confirmed that air conditioners have been running around the clock since they moved into the rental home in January.
In response to Little Hollywood's question about odors, Spencer said, “Yes, there are uncontrolled odors, and the pesticide and fertilizer use goes down into our water system, but the pot operation isn’t even the issue for me. It’s an unpermitted commercial operation that is exceeding the capacity of the system in a residential area….The city is on the hook for this,” said Spencer, as she concluded our interview.
City Response 
As is customary at city council meetings, council members listen to all speakers at public comment time and at their discretion, choose to respond to specific speakers and issues.
In response to Spencer’s comments, Olympia city manager Steve Hall said that city staff has been very responsive to Spencer’s concerns, and detailed the city communications with PSE and staff, information that was already known to Spencer. Hall said PSE has assured the city that the power lines are safe.
Hall also said that he just received information that he had not shared with Spencer.
Hall said that city staff contacted the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force, who investigated and determined that the location is a collective garden operation, which would be allowed under state law, and as such, would not be regulated by the city, nor is a business license required. 
Councilmember Nathaniel Jones commented that he remains concerned about the city’s role in the situation and was concerned about the three recent fires within a short period of time.
“It seems to me we have some responsibility to follow up with PSE in our role….to ensure there are no remaining concerns about fire risk or electrical failure.” He thanked staff for what has been done but said the report did not give him confidence on continuing risk.
Councilmember Jeannine Roe also thanked Spencer for coming, and said she sensed that the city needed the improve communications with constituents.
As the council turned to other business, speakers left the council chambers en masse. Hall quickly gave Spencer his business card as she left.
Outside city hall, Spencer was incensed with Hall’s comments.
“….I was last in contact with the city on Thursday and I never heard anything else after that…. He could have had the courtesy to call or email me…To undercut what I said in public! That’s mean! I’ve waited the last three business days for communication from the city because I’ve been giving them the benefit of the doubt. All along I’ve been thinking, ‘prove me wrong!’ You just don’t do that!”
Spencer complimented the councilmembers who expressed concern about the issue.
“It is not a collective grow operation. They have several hundred plants in there. The city is trying to tie it up in a tiny little bow because code enforcement minimized the problem,” said Spencer.
Above: City of Olympia's Strategic Communications Director Kellie Purce Braseth, who began her new position with the city on July 13, checks the public comment sign-in sheets at 6:50 p.m. City council meetings usually start at 7:00 p.m. At the beginning of the meeting, Braseth takes the sheets to the mayor, who usually calls speakers up to the podium in the order in which they signed up.
Tonight, ten speakers spoke on issues related to code enforcement, public support for the city's possible purchase of 75 acres off Kaiser Road as open park space, support for a $15 minimum wage, support for the the city's possible purchase of LBA Woods, and Black nationalism.

South Puget Sound Community College Adds Women’s Volleyball to Athletics Line-up

Thurston Talk - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 7:22am



By Grant Clark

infernos pizzaVolleyball is coming to South Puget Sound Community College.

It’s been nearly a quarter century since the Clippers added a new intercollegiate sport, but women’s volleyball will make its debut on the Olympia campus in the fall of 2016.

Volleyball will be the college’s fourth athletic program, joining men’s basketball, men’s soccer and women’s basketball. The addition comes on the heels of South Puget Sound, a member of the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), discontinuing its intercollegiate softball program earlier in August.

“When I was hired, I was given the task of helping to lead a rejuvenation of the (athletic) department,” said Nick Schmidt, who was hired as SPSCC’s new Director of Athletics in July. “Not just to field teams but to field quality teams in both character and in talent.”

The Clippers will join the NWAC West Region, filling the void left by departing Clark College, which is moving to the South Region next year.

South Puget Sound Community College Director of Athletics Nick Schmidt is excited to bring a women's volleyball program to the college.

South Puget Sound Community College Director of Athletics Nick Schmidt is excited to bring a women’s volleyball program to the college.

In addition to SPSCC, the new West Region will feature Tacoma, Highline, Green River, Pierce, Lower Columbia, Grays Harbor and Centralia Community Colleges.

“We want to move quickly (on the hiring of a volleyball coach), but we don’t want to make knee-jerk decisions,” Schmidt said. “Right now we are evaluating our equipment needs and will first move forward with those purchases, and then take the next steps.”

According to Schmidt, the ultimate goal would be to hire a coach in late fall 2015.

“(We want) to make the right hire,” Schmidt said. “I want to make sure we bring on someone who will not only be a great leader and role model to our players, but someone who can also lay the foundation for a successful program.”

In terms of potential recruits, Thurston County has been a hotbed of high school volleyball talent for quite some time now with all seven of the larger local schools featuring exceptional programs – a fact not lost on Schmidt.

Tumwater High School captured the 2015 Class 2A state title, while Capital was the runner-up this past season in the 3A ranks. Olympia won the 4A crown in 2012 and is constantly ranked among the top teams in the state. North Thurston finished second in the state 3A tournament in 2013, while Timberline placed in state twice over the last four seasons – a first for the 45-year-old program.

“No one can dispute the quality of talent in Thurston County,” Schmidt said. “With that success came numerous players moving on to college outside of our local area. Now we will be able to provide an avenue for those players to stay home.”

Tacoma Community College won the West Region last year with a 13-1 record. The top four teams from each of the four regions advance to the NWAC tournament. Blue Mountain Community College, located in Pendleton, Ore., has won three consecutive and four out of the last five NWAC volleyball championships.

olympia tumwater volleyball

Olympia and Tumwater High Schools battle over the net. Both are examples of local schools with excellent programs to potentially feed into the new SPSCC team.

“Everyone involved with this sees the value athletics play on the campus and in the community,” Schmidt said.

The elimination of the softball program comes just four months after SPSCC was forced to cancel the remainder of its 2015 season due to lack of players.

The Clippers forfeited four games in a one-week span alone last season when they were unable to suit up the minimum nine players. The team finished 0-14 last year and 0-32 in 2014. It was the second time in four years the program was forced to cancel its season as the Clippers ended their 2012 campaign after just two games.

The shutdown comes just four years removed from a 22-win season in 2011. In 2006, the SPSCC softball team went 40-7 and hit a college softball record 127 home runs that year, bettering the record 126 homers the University of Arizona smacked in 2001.

With volleyball on the horizon, Schmidt did not rule out the addition of other sports, however don’t expect announcements any time soon.

“Long term, yes,” answered Schmidt when asked if South Puget Sound was interested in starting up other intercollegiate sports, “but we’re not talking about any time in the near future. When the time comes to add more (sports) we want to be able to use our volleyball program as a successful blueprint on how to do that. Our main focus now is on our current programs.”












Hot Flame, Patient Hands, Colorful Designs: An Olympia Couple’s Passion for Lampwork Bead Making

Thurston Talk - Tue, 08/18/2015 - 6:00am



By Doris Faltys

capital medical centerLampworker Ernie Wagner and his wife, designer Darcie Richardson, have been making glass bead creations for about 12 years.

“Many people think we are blowing glass or fusing glass,” Ernie explains. “What I am doing is lampwork – basically melting glass.  As early as the 1500s, people were making beads by melting glass in the flame of their oil lamps. That is where the term lampwork comes from. The Italians and the French used oil lamps with a pump to make huge numbers of beads for the African bead trade. Now people scour Africa looking for those old beads to bring back and sell.”

Lampworker Ernie Wagner and designer Darcie Richardson work together in their Olympia studio.

Lampworker Ernie Wagner and designer Darcie Richardson work together in their Olympia studio.

When asked how he first discovered the craft, Ernie describes his first lampworking experience. “We were visiting a friend who has a business selling glass on eBay. Our friend thought that Darcie would really like bead making and had her sit down to try it out. Well, Darcie sat down and wasn’t too thrilled. But I sat down, made one bead, and got hooked.”

“After that initial introduction,” Darcie adds, “Ernie set up in our garage here in Olympia. He would go out in the garage, in the middle of winter, and work with a blanket over his legs.”

“I am primarily self-taught,” says Ernie. “I watched some tutorials and bought a really good book, Passing the Flame: A Bead Makers Guide to Design and Detail, by Cornia Tettinger.”

Darcie creates jewelry with both beads she has collected and Ernie’s creations. “I had done some work with beads,” Darcie shares. “All of a sudden, I had this bead source!”

They invite me to sit and watch as Ernie creates a bead.  “I use a propane tank with an oxygen booster,” he explains as he lights his flame. “This gives a hotter flame, over 1000 degrees.”

Darcie hands me a pair of dark glasses and instructs me to put them on.

‘The glass I work with,” Ernie continues, “has a lot of soda in it, which flares when put into the flame.”

He holds a cane of colored glass into the flame and it does, indeed, begin to flare. “The flare makes it hard to see what you are doing, so I wear dark glasses. Then I can see exactly what I am doing.”

 Doris Faltys

Ernie adds a different color glass to the hot base bead. Photo Credit: Doris Faltys

Ernie picks up a small stainless steel rod called a mandrel. It is about 1/16 inch in diameter. “When the glass cane begins to melt,” he explains, “I catch it on the mandrel and simply wind it around.”

It looks simple, in a complicated way, as Ernie allows a drop of melted glass to fall on the center of the mandrel. He then rotates the mandrel between his fingers and the molten glass wraps itself around the rod.

“Here is a very simple base bead,” he says. Prior to melting the glass, Ernie coated the mandrel with a kind of clay-like material called bead release.  This prevents the glass from bonding to the metal.

“I can go back into the flame and add more glass, until I get the bead shape that I want,” he continues.

He takes an extremely thin cane of a darker color and touches it to the hot bead in the flame. A tiny dot appears.

“Sometimes, I take a thin cane of glass called a stringer and melt-on a dot. I can leave the dots raised up if I want or I can make them flat and put another color on top. Or if I want, I can draw with the stringer,” he explains as he shows me how the thin cane can be melted onto the hot bead in a squiggle line.

Ernie makes his own stringers by heating up the end of a cane of glass. When the tip of the cane has a molten spot about the size of a pea, he takes tweezers and grabs into the molten blob and begins to pull.  The faster he pulls, the thinner the stringer. When the glass starts to get stiff after just a few seconds, he stops pulling and breaks off his stringer.

“Everything about bead making takes time. You spend more time melting and heating the glass to  temperature than anything else. I have to keep the whole thing hot all the time, as well. If it is out of the flame for too long, it will crack.”

 Darcie Richardson creates fun and fanciful jewelry combining the lampwork beads with interesting and antique beads she has collected. Photo credit Doris Faltys

Darcie Richardson creates fun and fanciful jewelry combining the lampwork beads with interesting and antique beads she has collected. Photo credit Doris Faltys

To assist with keeping the beads hot Ernie uses a small kiln with only about one square foot of interior space.  He puts the beads in the kiln to cool slowly and avoid breakage when they cool too fast.

Ernie gains inspiration from the natural world, patterns he observes while out and about, suggestions from Darcie, or special orders. “One of my favorite things,” Darcie tells me, “is when somebody says I have an outfit and I really want a special necklace to go with it.  It’s so challenging and it’s so much fun.”

Ernie also creates memory beads.  “If you have had a pet or a loved one pass away,” explains Darcie, “Ernie can take some of the ashes and integrate it into a bead.”

“I take a bit – a gather - of molten glass and roll it in the ashes,” he says.  “I then pull a stringer. I melt that stringer that is imbedded with the ashes into a bead.”

Creating lampwork glass beads is truly an ages-old art form. “It is all about temperature and working in and out of the flame,” says Ernie. “It is a very meditative process.”

You can view some of Darcie Richardson and Ernie Wagner’s work at The Artists’ Gallery, or contact them at 360- 456-8716 or by email at to view their work or commission custom items.

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