Ski to Sea

Of parties and pig’s eyes

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Last year, immediately following Ski to Sea, I moved to a place with a view of Boulevard Park and almost dead center between Fairhaven and the downtown core. It occurred to me that had I moved in a couple of weeks earlier, I would’ve been perfectly situated for maximum Ski to Sea weekend action.

Timing has never really been my thing.

This year, however, things will be different.

Now firmly ensconced in my centrally—at least as far as Ski to Sea is concerned—located abode, I can take full advantage of my proximity to what has become Bellingham’s marquee outdoor event. The race’s origins date back more than a century, to the Mt. Baker Marathon, a grueling event that was put on longterm hiatus in 1913 after one of the competitors fell into a crevasse.

These days, the adventure race is comprised of seven legs—cross-country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, running, bicycling, canoeing, mountain biking and kayaking—over a 93-mile course that begins on the slopes of Mt. Baker and runs all the way to Bellingham Bay. Along with being a competitive endeavor—and it is hugely competitive—Ski to Sea also serves as a showcase for the natural beauty and diverse topography that make up our unique corner of the country.

For many of us (especially those of us who are not so athletically inclined), Ski to Sea has become so much more than just a race. From parades to block parties to street fairs, it is also a cultural event, a social outing and a chance to show off our region and its character in uniquely ‘Hamster fashion.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m into Ski to Sea for its parties more than its trophies, proof that this annual event offers something for everyone.

Used to be that every bar and music venue in town offered up some kind of Ski to Sea/Memorial weekend lineup of music, but in recent years, the entertainment energy has coalesced into a few large community events. The options may be fewer, but the decision-making is simpler—or you can follow my lead and try to take in a little bit of everything.

Per usual, Boundary Bay Brewery is going all out in honor of Ski to Sea, Memorial Day and whatever reason you’ve got. Boundary manager and maven of fun, Janet Lightner, tells me the beer garden is open for the season and its regular revolving roster of weekly barbecues, happy hours and other reasons to gather, quaff pints, have a bite and see some music is well underway.

Not a moment too soon for those of us who regard the opening of Boundary’s beer garden as the first official sign of summer.

At Boundary Bay, Ski to Sea starts, not on the Sunday of the actual race, but the Friday before, May 27, with the annual Ski to Sea Block Party. The barbecue grills will be hot, the Ski to Sea ESB (brewed especially for the occasion) will be flowing and the music will be courtesy of Jasmine Greene and the Atlantics. Always a community affair, the Block Party is free and family-friendly.

Should you not be sufficiently prepared for Ski to Sea after the Block Party, Boundary will once again be there for you on Sat., May 28 with a Ski to Sea Prefunk party. The setup is the same as the night before—barbecue, beer, band—but this time Hot Damn Scandal will provide the soundtrack. I guess because Boundary already gave it all away up front at the Block Party, the Prefunk is also free. Round up the kids for some “tipsy American gypsy blues” and dance the night away.

If you don’t happen to live within walking distance of the Southside and don’t desire to brave the Ski to Sea madness on race day, Sun., May 29, well, you’re most likely about as dedicated to athletic pursuits as I am. Never you worry, Boundary Bay is here for you. They’ll wind down the weekend with, you guessed it, brews and burgers in the beer garden, and the Elopements and Marcel & Nakos will sing you right into Memorial Day.

But Boundary isn’t the only brewery throwing a block party this year.

At the other end of town, closer to the finish line of the race, lives one of Bellingham’s many new breweries, Stones Throw, on Larrabee Avenue.

If you’re scratching your head and trying to figure out where on Larrabee a brewery could be, it might help you to know that Stones Throw is disguised to look just like your average family home.

Do not be fooled by its unassuming exterior. Big things are contained within.

Big things like vats of Stones Throw beer, which they’d love to share with you Sat., May 28 at their own block party. They’ll close down the street, building a beer garden (essential for the drinking of their Fairhaven Park Tr-ALE, a beer that benefits the Recreation NW Fairhaven Park Stewardship Program) and building a stage for the likes of Yogoman Burning Band, Misty Flowers, Badd Dog Blues Society, the Devilly Brothers, and Julian MacDonough & Delvon Lamarr. Food trucks will be on hand to soak up that beer and satiate your appetite, but did I mention that Stones Throw will also be roasting a pig?

I once watched someone eat a pig’s eye at a pig roast and even though it was kind of gross, I do not regret a thing.

The party is free, a pig plate requires a reservation and the eyeballs might be up for grabs, but I make no promises.

Of course, I would be sorely remiss in not mentioning Ski to Sea’s traditional after party, the Fairhaven Festival.

This is one event that is easy to find, since it takes place smack dab in the heart of Fairhaven—all you have to do is head to the Southside and you’ll run right into it (take my word for it and avail yourself of public or pedal-powered transportation—trying to drive and park is a fool’s errand).

Part street fair, part beer garden, part outdoor concert and all kinds of fun, the Fairhaven Festival will even enable you to watch racers cross the finish line on Sun., May 29 if your timing is better than mine. Music will be an all-day affair—on two stages, no less—courtesy of Blind Fate, Divas and Dudes, SpaceBand, Lost at Last, and more. Thousands of people converge on Fairhaven to catch all the action, so no matter when you show up, you’ll be in great and plentiful company.

What: Block, Prefunk and After parties
When: May 27-29
Where: Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave.
Cost: Free
What: Block Party
When: Sat., May 28
Where: Stones Throw Brewery, 1009 Larrabee Ave.
Cost: Free
What: Fairhaven Festival
When: Sun., May 29
Where: Historic Fairhaven
Cost: Free

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