Back 2 Bellingham

Something 4 everyone

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I live near enough to Western Washington University that I can exit my front door, meander a block or two down the street and view the institution of higher learning in all its storied glory. In fact, any journey that takes me to downtown Bellingham for any reason involves walking or driving by the college, and many of my errands are made that much quicker by cutting right through campus.

Despite all that, I tend to take Western’s presence as a given, expending little or no energy on consideration of the details that make up its continued existence.

Oh sure, I’ve extolled the virtues of living in a college town to all and sundry—especially those who question my continued and enthusiastic tenure here. However, while trying to explain the peculiar magic that a venerated institution such as Western lends to life in this smallish town, I have to confess that I don’t spend a lot of time considering the college itself.

This is especially criminal given the fact that 1. As with so many of you, WWU is the reason I moved to Bellingham in the first place, and 2. I spent four-plus years soaking up its knowledge and exploring every inch of its campus. As well, I’m actually employed in the field in which I gained my education—and happily, I might add—meaning I owe Western a debt bigger than my as-yet-unpaid student loans.

It occurs to me that I probably shouldn’t take Western so much for granted.

However, the university knows its relationship with our town is a long-term one, and, as such, it has to work to keep the spark alive. As it turns out, Western knows how to woo. And its charms are many.

The school will put all those charms on display during one jam-packed, all-singing, all-dancing weekend known as Back 2 Bellingham, which takes place this year Fri.-Sun., May 17-19. And if you think this is an event that holds no personal interest for you, I am here to tell you that you are wrong.

I say that with much confidence as the many people who came together to plan Back 2 Bellingham—spearheaded and wrangled by WWU’s Alumni Association—have managed to cram more than 130 distinct events into one short weekend. The official PR materials for the event talk about “reunions, tours, educational discussions, entertainment opportunities” and the like, but that unassuming wording conceals all the cool stuff to be found within.

So, just what is Back 2 Bellingham? It is planetarium shows and sunset kayak trips, gallery exhibits and birding walks, basketball tournaments and bike tours, improv performances and conversations about social issues. And it’s also happenings that are as offbeat as they are intriguing. When else will you be able to ride a giant inflatable slide called the “Cliffhanger” in Red Square? Or drink pints of Boundary Bay beer and party in the library without fear of being caught and kicked out? Or attend an authentic luau? Or attend a magic show? Or suss out the 13th annual “Ridin’ Low in the 360” low-rider show after brunch? You can do all that during the three days that encompass Back 2 Bellingham while still having ample time to walk a couple of laps or otherwise show your support for Western Relay for Life, which will also be an important part of the giant, multifaceted event.

Of course, as this is a celebration of sorts, music is an integral part of the mix, so much so that it will take place on five separate stages—more, when the off-campus musical offerings that are part of Back 2 Bellingham are taken into account—all weekend long.

Of all the free offerings at Back 2 Bellingham (and many of them are indeed free, and the ones that aren’t are pretty affordable), none is a more unbelievable deal than EndFair. which takes place in Fairhaven College’s courtyard. Kicking off at 11am Saturday and ending more than 12 hours later, the daylong concert features 14 bands, Learning Team, Vervex, Juniper Stills, and the Prime Time Band among them. The Prime Time Band will also play earlier that same day at the Back 2 Bellingham barbecue, while the Relay for Life will also boast a stage and bands that will entertain walkers and watchers alike at regular intervals.

Also taking place during the B2B weekend is LivFest, an annual fundraiser for the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, and this iteration promises entertainment from Gyrating Hips, Vonvettas, and more on Friday, while Walking Stick for a Giant, Gypsters, the Dagwoods, and others will take the stage Saturday. Those who attend Saturday’s Red Square Carnival—where the aforementioned “Cliffhanger” can be found in all its widow-making glory—will slide and scream to a soundtrack of Soccer Mom, the Well Wishers, and more.

For Back 2 Bellingham attendees who favor a bit of an off-campus wander, B2B-related shows can be found Friday at the Underground, where the Walrus will play, and Saturday in the Boundary Bay beer garden, where SpaceBand will entertain alumni, current students and anyone else who happens to come their way.

As some of Back 2 Bellingham’s events happen at the same time, I am sad to report it is likely impossible to attend all 130 of them. But no one will mind if you try. If you happen to renew your romance with Western along the way, well, no one will mind that either.

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Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Bringing history into sharp focus


Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre


7:00pm|Village Books

USA Dance


Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

Trove CWWarrenMiller
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Terrell Creek

Scarecrow Stuffing Contest

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Landscape stewards work party

9:00am|Chuckanut Center

Pumpkins 4 Pajamas

9:00am|Lakeway Fred Meyer

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Pumpkin Patch on Rails

9:00am|Wickersham Station

Port race ponders a wasted waterfront


Everyday Superheroes 5K

10:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Blaine Oktoberfest


Community Cider Pressing

10:00am|Chuckanut Center

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Enlightened Caterpillar

10:30am|Village Books

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Crown Jewel Wilderness

11:00am|Western Washington University Bookstore

Mushrooms gone wild


Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Conquering Writer's BLock

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Winter Birds of Whatcom County

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Undersea Bubble Fantasia

2:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Brew on the Slough

5:00pm|Maple Hall

Community Library Celebration

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Seeds of Change

6:30pm|Edison Granary

The Great Unconformity

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Symphony's Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Original Comedy Night

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

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