Ski to Sea

I’ll see you at the party

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Surprising though it may be considering my current lack of sportiness, I spent the first half of my life as an athlete of sorts. I started playing soccer when I was in kindergarten, and for several years before I hung up my cleats, I played year-round, on indoor and outdoor teams. For much of that time, I also spent every winter weekend skiing, just one in a veritable army of ski-bus kids who descended on local mountains and managed to survive despite an almost total lack of adult supervision.

To be clear: I was not especially gifted at these pursuits. As a soccer player, I was small and slow, my main assets being toughness and stubbornness—great if you’re the star of an inspirational made-for-TV movie, but not so good when you’re getting beat down the field every time. As a skier, I had a complete lack of fear matched only by my inability to control my skies, poles and limbs. As well, I’m an inherently, intrinsically clumsy person—it is probably my defining physical feature—and after a series of broken bones, blown knees and even a couple of concussions, I finally got the message the universe was—loudly and painfully—sending and transitioned to a low-impact lifestyle.

So you’ll never find me on a Ski to Sea team in any capacity, unless they amend the race to include a leg of brisk walking around Bellingham’s neighborhoods. I have no end of admiration—and given the winning streaks enjoyed by some local teams, no end of awe—for those who possess both the athletic skill and the wherewithal to participate in the relay race that begins on the slopes of Mt. Baker and ends in Bellingham Bay.

However, one need not paddle, run or bike in order to participate in Ski to Sea. While the race is the centerpiece of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, it is far from the only part of an event that has expanded beyond the legendary adventure race to become a celebration of the community itself. Luckily, I am perfectly situated above Boulevard Park, meaning I’m centrally located for not only watching part of the race, but also when it comes to searching out Ski to Sea-related entertainment in both downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven.

Entertainment I shall find, and, unsurprisingly, a lot of it will be located at Boundary Bay Brewery. Bellingham’s longstanding brewpub is the proud owner of one of those Ski to Sea streaks of which I speak—their team has won the Women’s Division for the past 17 years in a row—and they brew a special beer—Ski to Sea ESB—every year to commemorate the race. They also throw a Block Party that serves as the unofficial grand opening of Boundary’s beer garden for the summer. This year’s Block Party takes place Fri., May 26, and is free, family-friendly and open to the public, per usual. No celebration in Bellingham is complete without music, and Jasmine Greene as well as the Atlantics have been enlisted to provide the soundtrack for this year’s party. Burgers will be grilled, prizes will be raffled off, pints of beer will be consumed and everyone will have properly prefunked for Sunday’s big race.

I don’t know about you, but after I’ve watched racers cross the finish line at Marine Park, I’m not really of a mind to disperse and go home. If you’re of the same mind, you can take yourself back to Boundary Bay for more Ski to Sea ESB and a “revitalization” celebration with the sweet sounds of the Woolly Breeches and Hot Damn Scandal. Or you can join thousands of other revelers on the Southside for the Fairhaven Festival, a longtime Ski to Sea tradition.

Despite the fact that the hardworking crew that organizes the Fairhaven Festival probably wish that I would stop referring to the event’s former name, It All Ends in Fairhaven, every single year, I continue to be endlessly amused by the fact that one of the friendlier, more family-centric community gatherings I’ve been to once bore such an apocalyptic-sounding moniker.

The name may have changed, but the party itself remains much the same. The streets in the core of Fairhaven are closed to traffic (hot tip: take public transportation or jettison your car a mile away because parking will be thin on the ground in Fairhaven proper) so that vendors, nonprofits, food purveyors can set up shop. A goodly chunk of space will be given over to a beer garden, where those who are of age can come together over local brews. And dancing in the streets, normally frowned upon, will be encouraged. Bands will perform on two stages—the D’vas and Dudes, SpaceBand, and Sunset Superman will appear on the Main Stage (11th Street and McKenzie Avenue), and you’ll find Out of the Ashes, Bellingham Silk Road Dancers, and more on the Green Stage (10th Street and Mill Avenue).

Even though my limited athletic prowess is a thing of the past, I can still participate in Ski to Sea. I may never make it to the racecourse, but I’ll always see you at the party.

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