Sunnyland Soft-Shoe

And now, for something completely different

Do It

What: Sunnyland Soft-Shoe

Where: Sunnyland neighborhood, Bellingham


WHEN: 3pm-8pm Sat., July 17

Cost: Entry is free


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I will forever associate the Sunnyland Stomp with the time I co-officiated the annual event’s notorious chicken races, but am well aware the neighborhood hoedown that has taken place every July for the past 12 years has always been about much more than fowl-focused fun.

It’s also been about art and music, food and fellowship, exploration and creativity. People throughout the Sunnyland ‘hood have opened up their yards and studios to the public in hopes of making connections with their fellow community members, and the red-hot response has resulted in a much-anticipated summertime soiree.

This year, of course, things are a little different. Due to coronavirus concerns, a modified event dubbed the Sunnyland Soft-Shoe will take place from 3pm-8pm Sat., July 18, and although it’s intended to be a toned-down version of the original, it still has the capacity to amaze.

“Since it is not the right time to plan for an event that could put any of us at risk of getting sick or exposing others to COVID-19, we have reimagined our beloved annual event as a walk/bike/stroll/skate/roll/scoot around the neighborhood where folks can discover delights and surprises along the way,” organizers say.

“The Soft-Shoe,” they add, “is more of a free-form celebration than the Stomp, and must be ‘phase-proof,’ meaning that anything you plan should be able to take place regardless of what phase of opening Whatcom County might be in.”

With a dictate to have “hosts” plan creative surprises that can be shared with passerby—at a safe distance and with masks at the ready—they have some suggestions about what that might look like. Ideas include spiffing up and showing off your kick-ass front garden, no-contact yard sales, free piles, displays of solidarity with social justice movements and actions, giant hopscotch grids or no-contact obstacle courses, live music that can be enjoyed from afar, sidewalk art galleries, selfie booths, random acts of kindness and other activities designed to help people get to better know their neighbors and other denizens of Bellingham.

Although much of the event information from participating homeowners and businesses will be posted on the Sunnyland Soft-Shoe website before the big day, visitors to the neighborhood bounded by Cornwall Avenue and Sunset Drive are also encouraged to explore the outdoor action without a cheat sheet, and preferably with a human-powered conveyance in tow or on the strength of their own two feet.

You needn’t be resident of Sunnyland to enjoy the family- and dog-friendly festivities, but people heading to the area should know there won’t be shared bathroom facilities available this year, and have a backup plan in place in case nature calls.

Another big change this summer is that the beloved Sunnyland Stomp Chicken Race is a no-go. That may not mean much to those who haven’t experienced the thrill of announcing the play-by-play action of a gaggle of urban chickens being urged toward a finish line by their owners, but to me it’s an unwelcome sign of the times.

My hope is that someone hosting a Sunnyland Soft-Shoe event will honor the temporary disappearance of the race by featuring a hen-focused art exhibit on their sidewalk, or go all out and build a tricked-out front yard coop by Saturday and fill it with a flock of racers by Saturday. I know it’s a long shot, but a girl can dream.

Photo by Phil Rose

More ...
Suddenly Dragons
An art adventure in Arlington

At the tail end of an epic quest that had taken us from Bellingham to Minneapolis and back via the perilous highways of America, my prince and I decided to escape the horrors of Seattle’s clogged arterials in favor of a scenic choose-your-own-adventure route that started in the town of…

more »
True Crime
The mural of the story

Artist Matt French has a criminal history.

When he was a wayward youth growing up in Ferndale in the early 1990s, French was arrested for malicious mischief after spray-painting graffiti on a downtown commercial building. The sentence was severe for a nonviolent offense—30 days in jail,…

more »
Forward and Back
Pressing on through darkness

In Edison, i.e. gallery is currently featuring “Divine Mind,” with recent paintings and sculptures by Seattle-based artist Rachel Maxi.

For 20 years, Maxi was known as a realist who explored the urban landscape to portray dumpsters, golf courses and swimming pools. But in 2015 she was…

more »