Chilled by the cold, soaked by the rain and whisked away by the wind, business on the lake this summer has been as ugly as this week’s weather.
“I’ve been down on the beach for seven years,” said Gordie Andrea, who sells snacks from his trailer on the Lake Coeur d’Alene beachfront. “It’s never been this bad. The Canadians aren’t coming. We’ve had 11 straight days of wind. It’s miserable.”
Even the seagulls looked grumpy this week as they combed the beach for french fries and other goodies that just weren’t there.
Wind-whipped rain pelted the few folks who braved the elements in jackets and sweaters usually broken out in October.
For 19-year-old Eri Isogai of Tokyo, the weather made for a damp, shivering picnic by the lake. Isogai and about 20 other Japanese college students toured the area as part of an exchange program with Gonzaga University.
“It’s very humid in Tokyo right now, so this is very different,” Isogai said between bites of a sandwich. “I don’t think we’ll be going in the lake.”
Unseasonably cold temperatures and near-record rain so far this month contrasted sharply with last August, which produced blistering heat.
Beach vendor Ray Andreasen, who rents paddle boats and other watercraft, said it’s one of the worst summers he can recall.
“I think it just may end by the weekend,” he said Thursday. “I don’t know if it’s going to get any better.”
Coeur d’Alene tourism officials said visitor numbers are actually up a bit from last summer. But their total numbers won’t be in until the end of September.
John Kozma of the Coeur d’Alene Convention and Visitors Bureau said that Canadians, who have shied away from the Inland Northwest because of a high exchange rate that cheapens their dollar, are trickling back.
The bureau hasn’t added up the numbers from its visitor center yet, he said. Those figures may reflect the fact that Canadian visitors typically show more interest in malls than beaches.
Andrea won’t be surprised.
“Sure, they say they’re coming back, but I sure haven’t seen it here,” he said, motioning to the parking lot. “You used to see plates from Alberta, British Columbia and even Manitoba. I just don’t see them here this year.”
In Bonner County, organizers of the Festival at Sandpoint also frowned at the drizzly demeanor of Mother Nature.
“Our attendance has been down a little bit,” said Cheryl Brock, marketing director for the festival. “We think things will improve this weekend, though.”
In Washington state, lakeside resorts saw their crowds dampened by the weather.
“We haven’t seen a lot of folks around this week, but at least the fishing’s real good with the cool weather,” said Debbie Spence of Picnic Pines restaurant and campground on Silver Lake, southwest of Spokane. “Other than this week, it’s been a real good summer for us.”
The Spokane area isn’t quite as dependent as North Idaho on tourism trade. Instead, Spokane gains many of its visitor dollars from downtown conventions. Most Eastern Washington resorts like Picnic Pines draw as many locals as tourists.
The rotten weather doesn’t so much bleed tourist dollars away from the region as simply redirect them, Kozma said.
Instead of playing outdoors, tourists turn to shopping malls and restaurants to spend time and money, he said.
But for lakefront businesses, the sun’s beginning to set on this summer. Merchants here just wish they could see it behind the gray clouds.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: How cold? A comparison of average temperatures in Coeur d’Alene Aug. 5-Aug. 17, 1994, and Aug. 5-Aug. 17, 1995: Average high, 1994……86 Average high, 1995……73 Average low, 1994…….55 Average low, 1995…….51 Source: National Weather Service