Tag Archive | Leavenworth Washington

Leavenworth, Washington

Bavarian Village in the Cascade Mountains

December 21, 2021

This time of year it’s easy to find ‘lists’ of the best holiday and Christmas towns in the U.S. For those who live in Washington State, it’s no surprise to find Leavenworth always on those lists.

A view of downtown Leavenworth during the Christmas light festival, courtesy of Seattlerefined.com

It was named, a few years ago, as the ultimate holiday town by the A&E TV network. No wonder, then, that the place has been overrun in recent years with tourists – especially during November and December.

The Leavenworth story began in 1892 when lumber was king. A sawmill was located on the Wenatchee River and the Great Northern Railway established its terminal there; the last stop before the climb up and over Steven’s Pass to Seattle.

Downtown looking west 1953

The town thrived for several decades until the railway moved the terminal to Wenatchee in 1925. Over the course of the next 25 years the lumber mills closed and residents – with no hope of employment – moved away, leaving much of the town boarded up and abandoned.

Leavenworth could have followed the fate of other small towns, withering away into historical obscurity. But thanks to the vision of two Seattle businessmen, a plan was hatched. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“The city looked to tourism and recreation as a major economy as early as 1929, when they opened a ski jump. In 1962, the Project LIFE (Leavenworth Improvement For Everyone) Committee was formed in partnership with the University of Washington to investigate strategies to revitalize the struggling logging town. The theme town idea was created by two Seattle businessmen, Ted Price and Bob Rodgers, who had bought a failing cafe on Highway 2 in 1960. Price was chair of the Project LIFE tourism subcommittee, and in 1965 the pair led a trip to a Danish-themed town, Solvang, California, to build support for the idea. The first building to be remodeled in the Bavarian style was the Chikamin Hotel, which owner LaVerne Peterson renamed the Edelweiss after the state flower of Bavaria.”

Perhaps the thing which was most compelling for the Bavarian theme is Leavenworth’s incredible natural scenery. At an elevation of 1,170 feet, Leavenworth is noted for its Continental Mediterranean climate. Summer days are primarily sunny and hot but with cool, crisp nights. Winters are typically cold and snowy.

The snowiest winter on record in Leavenworth occurred in 1968-69 when over 18 feet of snow accumulated. The most snow in a single month was December 1996 with 92.3 inches – yes, that’s nearly 8 feet of snow! A typical YEAR is 90 inches.

The mountains to the west rise precipitously, becoming the perfect backdrop for an Alps-like village. In the winter, the picturesque slopes and snow covered trees and hills causes one to stop and ponder.

Leavenworth has, in many ways, become a victim of its success. So popular is the destination that hotel rooms are sold out – often a year or more in advance – for the big festivals and finding a place to park becomes impossible. Seattleites (a generic description of anyone from the Westside of the Cascade mountains) have in recent decades discovered the Bavarian village and cars stream across the mountains in search of a magical experience.

Aerial view of the Icicle Village Resort. The wedding was held on just the otherside of the fence past the pool… lower right of the photo to the left of the parking lot.

As a girl growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s in Yakima, visiting Leavenworth was NOT a thing. The first time I stayed in Leavenworth was when my sister and I hatched a plan to celebrate New Year’s eve there on December 31, 1999 – to ring in the year 2000 (I wrote about that here.)

In the ensuing years, we made the occasional trip to Leavenworth but never again in December. Until this past weekend.

My daughter – having survived the Y2K scare during that 1999 trip – and her fiancé decided they wanted to get married someplace in Washington where there would (they hoped!) be snow. Thus Leavenworth was chosen as the perfect spot. Waaaaaay back in March 2019 right after getting engaged, they visited Leavenworth and reserved their venue at the Icicle Village Resort for December 19th… 2020.

The planning commenced. Save the Date postcards were mailed. A wedding dress was purchased. Attendants secured. All was coming together right up until March 2020 when the world shut down.

There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to change plans. The ‘wedding’ did happen on December 19, 2020 but with a total of five people present besides the bride and groom: the officiant, the maid of honor, the best man, a photographer, and a videographer.

As the bride’s mother I was not happy with this but also being a realist did not lament over it but resolved to make the best of the situation. As did my daughter and new son in law.

Determination took over and no way were they going to let a little thing like the world being shut down (eat your heart out Y2K – 2020 said ‘hold my beer.’) to stop them from having the wedding event of their dreams.

Fast forward to December 2021. The Pandemic still raged and yet people had finally figured out that the world continued on despite it all.

Thus it was we found ourselves in Leavenworth on Friday, December 17th, preparing for a party. We rehearsed and then picked our way down icy streets to downtown to eat German style sausages and raise glasses of beer (except me – I don’t do beer). The younger folks continued on to a couple other locations while the hubby and I walked back to the resort.

Within a short time of our arrival back, I looked out our window – which had that perfect view of the mountains to the west – and noted that snow had started to fall.

The mothers of the groom and the bride taking care of the garbage bags for chair coverings.

The next morning, the snow continued. Both Stevens and Snoqualmie passes were closed for a time and about a dozen guests opted out.

Even so, just before 4 p.m., those who had made the trek, arrived for the OUTDOOR wedding. Worried about the comfort of the guests, my niece’s husband had graciously – at my behest – gone and purchased white garbage bags so everyone would have dry chairs to sit on. I stood, in my formal dress and snow boots, at where they entered and handed bags to every single person!

And then it was time… first the groom’s mother was escorted down the aisle and then me. The snow fell as if in snow globe, everything blanketed in glittery white.

Next came the officiant and our son-in-law. Then the train of groomsmen followed by the bridesmaids bedecked in shades of blue.

Then, at last, we all stood, turned and watched as my daughter – looking every bit a Bavarian fairytale princess – swept down the aisle on her father’s arm. And I was so very glad she had persisted in her desire to have not one – but two – weddings. It was a magical moment which I will carry with me the rest of my days.

It occurred to me that along the way, Leavenworth would forever hold a special place in our family’s history; an exclamation point for a few important events. I have a suspicion that there’s a whole bunch of Washingtonians who feel the same way.

The Bavarian Bride escorted by her proud Padre.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leavenworth%2C_Washington

https://www.historylink.org/File/9475

https://bestlifeonline.com/american-christmas-towns/

The three other Washington State ‘theme’ towns pictured on Facebook are: Winthrop, Lynden, and La Conner

Y2K

The Apocalypse That Wasn’t

December 29, 2020

By the spring and summer of 1999, the world had turned their full attention to the impending turn of the calendar to the year 2000. Or, as it was familiarly known, Y2K.

Signs and stickers like this one warned us for months of impending doom.

It was truly a global phenomenon and there was no shortage of doomsday predictions as to what would occur when at midnight, on December 31, 1999, the digits all changed.

As it turned out, it was a nothing burger. The year 2020, however, was a whole lot closer to what people expected the year 2000 to be.

Y2K was originally an abbreviation assigned to a problem dubbed the Millennium Bug. The challenge they envisioned was that computers everywhere would not be up to the task of functioning properly when the year 2000 started. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The acronym Y2K has been attributed to Massachusetts programmer David Eddy in an e-mail sent on 12 June 1995. He later said, ‘People were calling it CDC (Century Date Change), FADL (Faulty Date Logic). There were other contenders. Y2K just came off my fingertips.’

The problem started because on both mainframe computers and later personal computers, storage was expensive, from as low as $10 per kilobyte, to in many cases as much as or even more than US$100 per kilobyte. It was therefore very important for programmers to reduce usage. Since programs could simply prefix ‘19’ to the year of a date, most programs internally used, or stored on disc or tape, data files where the date format was six digits, in the form DDMMYY, DD as two digits for the day, MM as two digits for the month, and YY as two digits for the year. As space on disc and tape was also expensive, this also saved money by reducing the size of stored data files and data bases. (snip)

Special committees were set up by governments to monitor remedial work and contingency planning, particularly by crucial infrastructures such as telecommunications, utilities and the like, to ensure that the most critical services had fixed their own problems and were prepared for problems with others. While some commentators and experts argued that the coverage of the problem largely amounted to scaremongering, it was only the safe passing of the main ‘event horizon’ itself, 1 January 2000, that fully quelled public fears.”

Newspaper and magazine articles on the topic bombarded readers; books were written; the nightly news was full of stories which promoted fear in the public mind. Doomsday preppers encouraged people to keep months of supplies in their pantry since at 12:01 on January 1, 2000, the world, as we knew it, was going to end.

TP shortage and electrical grid shutdowns were but two of the predicted problems.

The Infallible Wikipedia continues:

“Y2K was also exploited by some fundamentalist and charismatic Christian leaders throughout the Western world, particularly in North America and Australia. Their promotion of the perceived risks of Y2K was combined with end times thinking and apocalyptic prophecies in an attempt to influence followers. The New York Times reported in late 1999, ‘The Rev. Jerry Falwell suggested that Y2K would be the confirmation of Christian prophecy — God’s instrument to shake this nation, to humble this nation. (snip) Along with many survivalists, Mr. Falwell advised stocking up on food and guns’. Adherents in these movements were encouraged to engage in food hoarding, take lessons in self-sufficiency, and the more extreme elements planned for a total collapse of modern society.”

A whole lot of hype!

Of course we all know what happened: nothing. The resources which were poured into fixing the bug were enormous and the switch was mostly seamless. A whole lot of people no doubt had enough food and TP to survive for a year. My own parents eventually donated a case of green beans purchased ‘just in case’ to the food bank.

I personally never bought in to all the hype, instead believing that human ingenuity would find a way. In fact, my sister and I hatched a plan to spend New Year’s Eve 1999 in Leavenworth, Washington. We booked several rooms nearly a year in advance and arrived to a winter wonderland a day before the big event. Despite their trepidation, even our parents joined the party. Our two sets of kids – ages 10, 9, 7, and 6 – had a blast. We went sledding, indoor swimming, shopping, eating and explored the town. We all eagerly anticipated staying up to welcome in the new Millennium. About 10 minutes before midnight we bundled up in our coats and hats and walked to the corner of a nearby intersection, noise makers in our mittened hands. It was snowing lightly and all the Christmas lights cast an enchanted glow of red, blue, green, and gold over the entire scene.

As the moment ticked closer my six year old daughter became distraught.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

“Is the world going to end?” she said, her lower lip quivering.

“No, of course not,” I tried to reassure her.

Even so she snuggled close to me as the final countdown began… ten, nine, eight…

When it reached Zero we all shouted Happy New Year and blew our horns.

The countdown to Y2K in Leavenworth. I’d never noticed before my Dad checking his watch…
I snapped this shot less than a minute before midnight.

And then it happened. Off to the right a red glowing orb appeared in the dark sky and was headed our direction. My daughter started to cry, certain that some bad thing was going to happen. Turns out it was a hot air balloon of some sort and when she was brave enough to look began to understand that it was just part of the celebration.

The next week the kids were back in school and her first grade teacher assigned the class the typical ‘draw a picture and write a sentence describing your winter break’ project.

Me and my daughter in front of one of Leavenworth’s many wonderful murals before the poor child’s anxiety took over.

My daughter drew a picture of stick people drinking out of gigantic wine glasses and wrote that we drank ‘champan’. I got asked about it. I explained that we really had sparkling cider. I think the teacher thought we had a problem. I looked for that paper but it appears it was kept by the teacher so as to keep an eye on me.

Soon the anxiety over Y2K was forgotten. Then one day about a year and half ago I made a random comment to my daughter about Y2K . She got a funny look on her face and there was dead silence before she said, “Wait. Does Y2K stand for the Year 2000?” I might have burst out laughing.

It’s all true. She didn’t know until she was 26 years old what Y2K stood for. But to make the story even funnier is that when she asked her fiancé (now husband who is the same age) if he KNEW what Y2K stood for, he didn’t either.

I’m thankful that Y2K turned out to be a joyous occasion and that the world was able to celebrate such a momentous once in a thousand years event in grand fashion. I am positive that ringing in 2021 will be more somber and that people everywhere will be eager to say ‘get lost’ to 2020.

The banner we hung in our hotel room December 31, 1999

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_2000_problem