A fine moment to reflect on our remarkable community | Word on the Street

Nathan Barnett
Posted 4/29/22

A windstorm destroyed the old maple across the street last winter, but the ring of daffodils has sprung up around its shattered stump like always.

It’s a spring like any other, but it feels …

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A fine moment to reflect on our remarkable community | Word on the Street

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A windstorm destroyed the old maple across the street last winter, but the ring of daffodils has sprung up around its shattered stump like always.

It’s a spring like any other, but it feels significant. 

We aren’t just awakening from winter. We’re also awakening from years of isolation and darkness. And fear. Along Water Street in downtown Port Townsend, on Lawrence in Uptown, new shops are opening in old storefronts. People are strolling the streets with smiles on their faces. 

You can see their smiles. 

People’s faces are once again visible in three-dimensional space. You can go out and see them.

So yes, I’m celebrating that spring has returned to Port Townsend. I might be a little giddy with it. 

On the Main Street board, we’re planning for flower baskets and booking bands for Concerts on the Dock. Buskers are playing every Thursday at Tyler Street Plaza. All these little pieces are so vibrantly normal. 

With the return of wonderful old things, I’m looking forward to return of the Victorian Festival, coming up April 29 through May 1. New leadership, the Port Townsend Heritage Association, has taken over this cornerstone of our regional calendar which has run since 1996. Old things seen through new eyes can be transformative. 

I confess I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for “VicFest,” as I called it. My first visit to Port Townsend, maybe 2003, was to see a festival, little imagining that a decade later I’d be running it. The Victorian Festival highlights the well-preserved architecture of our Uptown and Downtown districts, but also the will to preserve and protect those buildings. It offers an opportunity to reflect on histories lost: Native American and Chinese communities, the lawless “Wild West” era with its brothels and saloons, the tall ships and timber that put Port Townsend on the map.

It was an honor to carry that torch, but surprising how many residents seemed conflicted by the event. “We’re more than a historical tourist town,” I got told. True, but we’re also a historical tourist town, and preserving that heritage, embracing it even, isn’t wrong. If you don’t love tea, enjoy the maritime history. If you couldn’t care less about corsets, check out the poker game. In my tenure we brought in bareknuckle boxing and fencing duels. Take another look, you might discover something you love.

Tickets and specifics for this year, ranging from fashion shows to wine tastings, are available at www.porttownsendvictorianfestival.org. Your Port Townsend Main Street Program, in collaboration with Key City Public Theater, hosts Hidden History Tours each day of the festival at 2 p.m. for $15 per person. Tickets at www.keycitypublictheatre.org.

If nothing else, stop downtown and check out the smiling faces. Go for ice cream. Celebrate spring.

By traditional, the Victorian Festival heralds the start of our event season. After a two-year hiatus, we return to that familiar cadence of an event-per-weekend – often more. Organizers and volunteers are ramping up for festivals ranging from Rhody to “Steampunk,” crescendoing with the Wooden Boat Festival and resolving to the coda of the Kinetic Sculpture Race. 

It has the potential to feel a lot like normal life in Port Townsend.

As the streets fill up with flowers and visitors, it’s a fine moment to reflect on our remarkable community. We’ve weathered a winter that reasonably felt like years. We have our challenges still, and future winters to plan for, but there’s no shame in pausing to bask in the sun, maybe meet a new friend. Go on out and enjoy the flowers.

Hope to see you ‘round.

(Nathan Barnett is a board member for the Port Townsend Main Street Program, director of Olympic Peninsula Steam, and a member of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. When not engaged in community service, he helps out around the Old Consulate Inn and writes technical documentation for Google. He also teaches historical fencing, dabbles in music and fiction, and is taken for regular walks by his dog.)

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