(Commentary by Brandon Hansen/Chewelah Independent)
Event showcases nightlife and excellent food…
Taste of Chewelah could probably be summed up in one encounter I had on the sidewalk during the food tasting, live music and local art event last Thursday in downtown.
“We’re going to write a letter to the editor,” one person proclaimed. “This event is awesome and there needs to be more events like this in town.”
Despite a light rain, the streets were swarming, local businesses were full as people packed in shoulder to shoulder, and the local food was really, really good. Put on by the Chewelah Arts Guild, Taste of Chewelah is one of those events that makes you realize that the downtown area is really a gem when it comes to small towns. It also shows that there is a weird hipster, foodie, artist, young person trend that is slowly but surely bubbling to the surface.
About a year ago, my friend and I discovered the potential of downtown Chewelah during a nice summer evening where we stopped by the Brewery, headed over to get some pizza and then perused what else was open in town in the evening.
Chewelah is very walkable for the nightlife-seeking young-ins. For people in my age demographic this is exactly what we’re looking for – a varied selections of businesses, restaurants and watering holes that give a unique atmosphere. The skeleton of a very livable city is right here.
Now that skeleton probably needs to find a little meat in the form of some industry. A quick drive up to Colville shows many family-supporting wage jobs and companies like Vaagen’s that employs hundreds of workers. If you want to bring people back in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, you’re going to need that here because farm jobs and part-time jobs aren’t going to cut it.
However, once they get here, those young people are going to be amazed with all the stuff actually going on.
Main Street in Chewelah is a perfect example of this:
– It’s Main Street (well Main Ave. because Chewelah likes to be special) is actually a Main Street and has businesses on it instead of abandoned buildings and then a Carl’s Jr. by the highway.
– Unlike other small towns, the downtown businesses aren’t just a bunch of antique shops. Seriously go to any other small town in Washington and everybody is like “Look at our antique shops, aren’t they amazing but we’re unsure why anybody under the age of 40 doesn’t come down here!” Take a quick roster check of the businesses along the main drag and you’ll realize there are a lot of vital hubs right along Main Ave.
– It’s a pleasant downtown. It looks nice. We’ve got nice lamp posts. Hanging flowers! Nicely done sidewalks. Business owners that make their storefronts look presentable.
– Go walk through some sections of Hillyard and tell me if you get that same inviting feeling.
– Very little traffic. Google maps the other day alerted me to “light traffic in Chewelah” and I could not stop chuckling at the notion after living on the west side for three years. I can still cross the street in town without getting run over and I get made if I’m at the stoplight for more then two seconds.
One of Chewelah’s favorite pastimes is to grumble about the direction it is going, or how somebody is doing something to turn this town into the next rendition of a Mad Max wasteland.
You’re being a tad bit dramatic.
Sure Chewelah isn’t Seattle but that’s because it isn’t a city of hundreds of thousands of people. Good job on doing math. I think it would be best for people to open their eyes and see that some things are working in town.
Instead of just complaining about the things that aren’t working, make an effort to change them and support the aspects of Chewelah that are working.
I’m shocked as anyone that since moving back, I’ve found myself in the only town that I’ve ever live in that hosts regular art walks, art lectures, has a political march every few weeks, has a big social event seemingly every other weekend, has businesses come together and work with each other and isn’t resting into the trope of rural decay that other places in the country are slipping into.
Name me another town where you can go to a food tasting night in its downtown and bump into the mayor – who is everywhere -, listen to the fire chief entertain people with his guitar, see the superintendent feed roughly 125 people with his mega-grill at a retirement party for teachers and see several business owners out and about.
Again, I would like to point out this isn’t normal and is a unique, quirky feature of the town of Chewelah.
Now, if you want to bring more young professionals into town, we’re going to have to find someway to bring either industry, manufacturing, or technology jobs. We’ve got a pretty good template here and events like Taste of Chewelah are perfect for entertaining the younger crowd.
Keep it up!