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Opinion >  Column

Rob Curley: Visit Olaf in downtown Spokane today and help a worthy cause in annual Kettle Kickoff

There are all sorts of barometers that Christmas is on its way, even though some of them appear way too soon now. (We’re totally looking at you Target.)

But one of the biggest signs that Santa Claus is close to coming to town is when you start seeing the Salvation Army’s red kettles seemingly appear in front of random places across Spokane not typically associated with the familiar ring of the accompanying bell. If you’ve been downtown this week and were wondering why there were bellringers in front of banks, or in other places you wouldn’t normally run into them, you should know this is a very Spokane thing.

It’s called the Kettle Kickoff, and the first city to ever do it was Spokane – which totally makes sense being that Bing Crosby made the sound of that exact bell legendary with the Christmas classic “Silver Bells.”

It was dreamed up by the CEO of Washington Trust, Pete Stanton, and his wife, Denise. They challenged the executives of other downtown businesses to get out in the cold to ring a bell to help raise funds for the Salvation Army.

There’s something so special about a community uniting in a way to encourage people near their businesses to put extra change – or maybe much more – into one of those iconic red kettles.

Over the last three days, about 30 different businesses and organizations have been opening the holiday season by ringing that bell, hoping to give the Salvation Army a jump on this year’s fundraising.

Today is the last day of this Salvation Army annual kickoff, and we’ll be ringing the bell in front of our iconic tower starting bright and early, through about 2 p.m. Folks from across all of our newspaper’s different departments will be wishing you a “Happy Holiday” with that crisp chime starting at 7:30 a.m.

Speaking of crisp, the day will begin with Spokesman-Review publisher Stacey Cowles ringing the bell during that first shift because someone had to wake up early, and it might as well be him.

You should totally come support our crew if for no other reason than to get to hear that iconic chime in front of the most handsome building in town. Talk about transporting you to another era!

And if you come at 11 a.m., you’ll be transported to an even more incredible place: Arendelle. If you have no idea where or what that is, then you clearly have not been around any children over the last dozen years or so.

The Kingdom of Arendelle is the home of the characters in Disney’s blockbuster “Frozen.” Regardless of what Disney characters you grew up with, there is a new generation who knows the lyrics to every song sung by Anna, Elsa and Olaf.

Over the last six years, I’ve loved being a part of this event so much that it became clear that even though this is not a competition, someone needed to beat the bankers. Which is hard because they have a lot of money in those banks, and you have to respect that a banker came up with this idea.

As much as we can appreciate Pete Stanton for this great idea, he’s not dressing up as a Disney character – especially an 8-foot snowman with an encyclopedic knowledge of obscure facts – while ringing a bell in front of a Salvation Army kettle. Washington Trust President Jack Heath totally seems like the kind of guy who might dress up as a Disney character, but he hasn’t. At least not publicly. While ringing a bell.

Or maybe he just doesn’t own a really good Olaf costume.

But I do.

And I’m not afraid, or ashamed, to put it on for a good cause – though the good cause isn’t always necessary … but that’s a story for another day.

Last year, the ante was significantly increased by promising anyone who put $100 in the kettle while I was ringing the bell in front of The Spokesman-Review would get escorted by me personally to the top of the Chronicle Building to see the mythical gargoyles that protect it, followed by a sneaky trip to an even higher part of our building. (But we don’t talk about that publicly.)

Let’s just say Pete and Jack didn’t stand a chance.

So, what do you do for an encore?

Well, you bust out that theme-park-quality Olaf costume and you call your friends who run Wish Upon a Star Character Parties and Events to see if they will send over his buddies Anna and Elsa to join him in front of The Spokesman-Review. And then you bring in a huge sound system to play all of the greatest hits from Arendelle.

Then you promise anybody who might donate more than $100, that as soon my bell-ringing shift ends at noon, Olaf, Anna and Elsa will take you up to a super secret location that allows for the best selfie legally available with a “castle” directly behind you.

We’re not messing around this year. When you bring in the princesses, you know you’ve likely taken things too far.

That’s the best part about the Kettle Kickoff – taking things too far is perfectly acceptable when the cause is right. You just let it go.

So come see Olaf and his best friends, Anna and Elsa, especially if you have grandkids. You’ve never seen toddlers freak out like they do when they see a massive snowman and the Snow Queen.

It will be hard to tell whether they are elated or gassy or just somewhere in that zone.


If you can’t make it downtown this morning, but would still like to help Olaf beat local bankers in raising money for the Salvation Army – while ensuring your amazing behind-the-scenes tour of The Spokesman-Review with editor Rob Curley – use the link below to donate:

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