An event with intent

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It’s a scenario that rings true for so many of us: During the long, cold, gray, long wet, long months of winter in this area, we tide ourselves over with memories of the wonders of summers past. When the dampness and the darkness seem interminable, we recall those perfect days when the light is long, the sun is hot and Bellingham seduces us anew with its many natural charms.

However, as the cold months drag on, doubt creeps in and we begin to wonder whether the warmer months here are really that magical, and start to suffer from the suspicion that perhaps we’ve glorified things a bit.

Then it happens.

Along comes the first run of days warm enough to make us want to play hooky, head outside and soak up every minute of sun, and we realize we were wrong to underestimate how good we have it here—for that all-too-brief time when we have it so good.

Capitalizing on our collective renewed love affair with this town for five years now has been Back2Bellingham, a herculean event spearheaded by Western Washington University’s Alumni Association (along with a goodly number of other departments, groups, staff, volunteers and others at Western) that offers more than 100 different happenings during a dizzying three-day period, nearly all of them free. The intent of the event is simple: to invite anyone who has a connection to WWU, past or present, to reunite and partake of all the diverse delights the campus community can dream up.

This year’s Back2Bellingham celebration takes place May 16-18, and per usual, an amazing array of activities awaits attendees.

Before I get to the music bits of Back2Bellingham, I’d like to regale you with just the slimmest of samplings of the weird and wonderful ways in which you can spend your B2B weekend. First of all, you can zip-line through campus, which is reason enough for Back2Bellingham to exist, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s just the tip of this mighty entertaining and educational iceberg. You can visit the planetarium, handle exotic aquatic life in the touch tank, spend some quality time with your artistic impulses in the Western Gallery, take a kayak tour of Bellingham Bay, learn about neuroscience in a quiz-free atmosphere, listen to enviro heavyweight Bill McKibben change your worldview (more about that can be found in the XXXX section of this issue), witness some improvisation comedy, see Bellingham by bike, watch a hockey game, take part in the Relay for Life, meet YouTube sensation Matt Harding—the list goes on. And on. And on some more.

Of course, it’s not possible to have any event that purports to celebrate both WWU and Bellingham without a robust musical component, and Back2Bellingham does not disappoint in that respect either.

Friday, May 16 isn’t rife with music, but the one show that takes place happens at the Performing Arts Center and marshals an army of guitar players—in ensembles and a giant guitar orchestra—for a free performance of many-stringed magnitude. With Saturday comes a slew of music, and it can be found at the all-day Red Square Carnival, at 11am on the Old Main lawn courtesy of the Prime Time Band, in the courtyard at the Fairhaven dorms as part of EndFair, and at the giant Party in the Library (who doesn’t want to quaff adult beverages and listen to bands in the WWU library?). Not ones to be left out of a community-wide confab, Boundary Bay Brewery, Bellingham institution that it is, will take an avid role in B2B, providing its award-winning beer, offering brewery tours and throwing a Downtown Bellingham Bash featuring SpaceBand.

The final day of this year’s Back2Bellingham, Sunday, is when the annual Ridin’ Low in the 3-6-0 lowrider show will celebrate its 14th year—making it the longest-running low-rider show in the state—with plenty of gleaming chrome and a thumping soundtrack. After that, current and former members of the WWU Concert Choir will come together in the PAC Concert Hall and close out the weekend in perfect harmony.

Without Back2Bellingham we’d all still have plenty of reasons to appreciate this area in which we live, but we might not have quite as much fun doing it. And I didn’t even mention the giant bouncy house.

What: Back2Bellingham
When: Fri.-Sun., May 16-18
Where: Western Washington University and many points beyond
Cost: Varies, but mostly free

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