My Ski to Sea Journey

Practice makes perfect

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

If you’ve read my writing for any length of time, you’ve probably discerned that I love the following: 1. Music. 2. A good wander. 3. People-watching. 4. Events that bring the community together. Any day I can combine those four things—and it happens around these parts on the regular—tends to be a good day.

Ski to Sea, which takes place Sun., May 26, and the many peripheral events in its extended orbit afford me the perfect opportunity to craft one such outing, and it’s a journey anyone with time and a sturdy pair of walking shoes can undertake with me.

Because it is near to my house and I am the tour guide here, we begin our stroll at Boulevard Park. Should you choose to do the same and don’t have as much proximity to the park as I do, you’ll not want to drive to there. Trust me. One of my favorite activities is to watch people fight over parking at Boulevard Park. This is probably a perfect time to remind you that WTA wants to haul you all over town during Memorial Day weekend. Let them.

From Boulevard Park, we head south, over the overwater walkway and toward Fairhaven. If you’re so inclined, you can hightail it a mile and a half or so to the Ski to Sea finish line at Marine Park and cheer the racers as they cross the finish line. As is customary, Boundary Bay will handle the beer garden portion, while food trucks will be on hand to feed hungry racers and spectators alike.

Myself, I’ll probably skip being so near to such physical exertion for fear of it being contagious and will instead mosey the mile from Boulevard into the heart of Fairhaven where a bounty of musical entertainment awaits.

First stop: The Fairhaven Festival. Every year, I talk about how much I enjoyed this annual all-day, family-friendly celebration’s previous moniker, It All Ends in Fairhaven, and somehow they have not yet changed the name back. No matter what it’s called, the festival is a large-scale block party in which streets are closed to motorized traffic so that they can fill with revelry, revelers and folks like me who revel in all of it. A mainstage will be set up at 11th Street and McKenzie Avenue, and the Bellingham Firefighters Pipes and Drums Band, who seem to show up wherever large crowds gather in celebration, will start the day’s musical program, before Lost at Last, SpaceBand, and Gin Gyspy take over from there. If this year is like festivals past, the beer garden will also prove a big draw, and snacks from various vendors will be available as well. You’ll want to fuel up because the next leg of our trip will be slightly longer, but the destination will be worth it.

Hie thyself out of Fairhaven and to downtown Bellingham via the South Bay Trail. It’ll be more crowded—and more convivial—than usual, so your party vibe won’t be harshed by too much solitude in nature. It’s slightly less than three miles to Boundary Bay Brewery, where capable beertenders will be assembled to ply you with beer and accolades for completing your own multi-leg quest. When you’re hydrated and ready to dance, Hot Damn Scandal will offer up the soundtrack you seek. But because Boundary is, well, Boundary, by the time Sunday’s race day has arrived, they’ll be days deep into partying. They’ll kick off a very full weekend Fri., May 24 with their annual Ski to Sea Block Party that not only features music by the Atlantics, but also giant Jenga and other larger-than-life games in the alley courtesy of WECU, and a rock-paper-scissors competition onstage after the music. The following night, WeAreWWU takes over the beer garden for Backyard Bizarre, with music from Analog Brass, Jackie, and more.

But Boundary isn’t the only brewery getting in on the prefunking block party action. Back to Fairhaven, where Stones Throw Brewery will host a Sat., May 25 Ski to Sea Block Party of their own. Gin Gypsy and JP Falcon Band will provide the music, Stones Throw will pour the beer and food trucks will cook the meals. The shindig is a fundraiser for the Community Boating Center, so this is a prefunk with a purpose. Since they’re nothing if not neighborly and went to all the trouble to set up their sizey beer garden, Stones Throw will keep it intact on race day for those who venture outside the confines of the Fairhaven Festival looking for a beverage.

With Ski to Sea-related events happening all weekend long, you can do a dress rehearsal of the Fairhaven-to-downtown trek (or reverse it and go from downtown to Fairhaven) on Saturday and embark on the real thing Sunday. As any Ski to Sea athlete would tell you, practice makes perfect.

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