Don NelsonBy Don Nelson

We’re well into the seasonal shift from intense tourism to intense localism, a time of year I like for its relative calm and the fact that, for a few weeks, we have the place mostly to ourselves. Much of what’s going on in the valley for the next few weeks is for us and about us.

The Ski Swap, Christmas Bazaar and opening of the Christmas Room at the Methow Valley Senior Center last weekend were as appealing for the socializing as for the shopping. Many of us hit two or three of them on Saturday. The proceeds are largely staying in the community.

Meanwhile, Neighbors Helping Neighbors – perhaps the best-named nonprofit in the Methow – and its companion effort, Manger Mall, are driving toward their goals of providing happier holidays for a lot of valley residents and their children. All of us who choose to can have an important role in that.

Thanksgiving weekend’s cluster of Christmas at the End of the Road events is a predominantly local celebration, although with Washington Pass still open we may see a few more west siders this year.

Confluence Gallery, The Merc Playhouse, Methow Arts, Winthrop Gallery, TwispWorks, Cascadia Chorale, Pipestone Orchestra, Methow Valley Sport Trails Association, Methow Conservancy, North Cascades Basecamp and others are preparing seasonal entertainment treats.

It’s a good time to enjoy all the activity and share holiday greetings with our neighbors.


A couple of projects on Riverside Avenue in Winthrop are drawing a fair amount of notice. Brian and Amy Sweet are reclaiming the sadly declined Grubstake & Co. building, intending to open an outdoor gear and clothing store in time for next year’s summer outdoor season. To be sure, their plan has raised some skeptical eyebrows, given that several local outlets – including some a few feet away from the site of the coming Cascades Outdoor Store – already are competing for the same market. One way to look at it: the more reasons for visitors to walk around town, the better. That site has been too quiet for too long.

Up the street, Steve and Teresa Mitchell are expanding the Rocking Horse Bakery to provide a more spacious, comfortable setting for locals and tourists alike.  Meanwhile, Jerry and Cyndy Oliver’s retail space/inn development is nicely taking form on Riverside Avenue near the Methow River bridge.

All of these efforts represent commitments to making a go of it here, not an easy decision for anyone.

Speaking of commitment – John and Agnes Almquist have operated their pottery shop on Riverside Avenue for so long that many of us (like me) can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there, or when we didn’t have some of their artistry in our homes. It will be sad to see their shop close in January, but it’s comforting to know that they’ll continue making their distinctive pottery. It’s one of the things that comes to mind when people think about the Methow Valley.


At this rate, they’ll be state champions in a couple of years. Or maybe sooner. The Liberty Bell High School girls’ soccer team, which is loaded with young talent, took third place at the state finals in Sumner last weekend, one notch up from last year’s fourth-place finish. They’re not only good, they’re also smart, having won the state academic championship five years running (kicking?). Congratulations to the Lady Lions – they made that long bus ride worth it, and made the community proud.