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Valleyfest draws thousands

Sun., Sept. 21, 2008

19th annual event offers activities for all

Spokane Valley mother Heather Hubbard took her two sons, 10-year-old Aiden and 8-year-old Jacob, to Valleyfest on Saturday.

The Hubbards ended up watching people square off with two foam rubber swords. Showing people how to use the swords in competition was Chris Knight, a teacher at Spirit Martial Arts, a Spokane Valley school.

“I just want them to try something here,” Hubbard said. “They mostly want to be cool and don’t do things I think are fun,” Hubbard added. “They’d have fun doing this activity, if they just tried it,” she said.

Hubbard got lucky. After watching the activity from a distance, Aiden and Jacob got in line to test their skills in the one-on-one sword drill that Knight said is slightly akin to the Japanese martial art kendo.

Organizers of Valleyfest, now in its 19th year, expect more people to follow their lead. Co-chair Peggy Doering said this year’s event, at Mirabeau Point Park and at Centerplace in the Spokane Valley, was designed so more people would find, taste, hear and experience things they hadn’t done before.

The free weekend of fun and festivities started Friday evening with a car parade featuring more than 60 vintage and custom automobiles.

Saturday’s activities started at 6:45 a.m. with a hot air balloon rally that attracted a few hundred early birds. Rally organizer and balloon pilot Stephanie Hughes helped launch seven hot air balloons that floated for more than an hour over the Valley.

Valleyfest continues today, but a scheduled second hot air balloon rally today was canceled due to inclement weather, said Hughes. At 10 a.m. a bike ride will send cyclists along the Centennial Trail, and the festival’s 135 or so vendors and groups will shut down booths at 4 p.m.

By the end of the weekend Valleyfest will attract about 32,000 people, said Doering.

Another first was a fundraiser for Spokane Valley Food Bank, tied to the International Year of the Potato, a designation by the United Nations. Barbara Bennett, the food bank’s director, gathered volunteers and organized a booth to sell baked potatoes at $3 apiece.

Helping their cause was the Washington State Potato Commission, which donated about 3,000 potatoes to the food bank.

Bennett and the volunteers scrubbed the spuds Friday night and started baking the first 1,000 Saturday morning.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, Bennett shrugged, dismayed that only 300 potatoes were sold.

“It’s the location (of our booth) and the fact that our booth banner is stretched across the bottom of our table,” said Bennett. “No one can see it and find us.”

At least the food bank had customers. At the other end of the park, the Washington State Potato Commission had no traffic at all.

Lexi Clark, a University High School freshman who had volunteered to man the booth Saturday evening, said she and two friends had no one to talk with but themselves.

“Nobody. That’s who’s come by and visited the booth,” said Clark.

One musician who had no trouble catching people’s attention was Greg Youmans, who walked around the fairway performing tunes with his own peculiar percussion system attached to his back.

Youmans, who normally plays bass with the Spokane Symphony, wears a contraption on his back with strings and straps attached to a tambourine, a cowbell, two halves of a coconut shell and two cymbals.

As he strums a guitar or plays a fiddle, Youmans jumps up and causes bells to jingle. Or he’ll do a series of leg kicks straight out ahead, with a cymbal clanging with each move.

“The first (back contraption) I built weighed 14 pounds, because it was made of oak,” said Youmans. His newer design using aluminum for the frame is much easier to carry.

Youmans admits he has to keep moving when playing in public or at fairs like Valleyfest. “I only have about six songs in my repertoire,” he said with a loud laugh.

Tom Sowa can be reached at (509)459-5492 or toms@

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