No-Bad-DaysBy Don Nelson

Here’s something you don’t see every day, or any day in most places: two young women strolling along Highway 20 in Twisp dressed in elegant old-fashioned dresses with wide hoop skirts, wearing pageantry-style sashes and delicate tiaras.

That was Saturday, and that was royalty on display on a plain old public sidewalk. Isabel Salas, queen of the 2018 Winthrop ’49er Days celebration, and princess Katie Labanauskas were on their way from somewhere to somewhere else as part of their royal duties. The dresses, which are lovely but a bit unwieldy, are part of their reign.

They might be the least pretentious royalty you will encounter — unless we also factor in the ’49er Days Grand Marshal and Grand Lady, Don and Sara Ashford, who aren’t likely to stand on ceremony or require bowing from their subjects.

Most days, Isabel and Katie are seniors at Liberty Bell High School, where both are involved in a lot of activities. That Saturday afternoon, Katie was in an entirely different kind of outfit: a softball uniform. She played first base for the Lady Lions as they took on Soap Lake in post-season play. It was garb much better suited for, say, running and such.

The versatility of Methow Valley kids — who are involved in athletics, music, art, 4-H, volunteer work and community activities, often in the same day, while keeping up good grades — continues to amaze me. That the community encourages, supports and looks after its children with shared enthusiasm is one of the things that people come to like about the Methow. I’ve been around long enough now that I can say I’ve watched many of them grow from precocious kids to well-rounded near-adults.

The kids support each other as well. Softball and baseball players who were finished with practice last Friday came over to the stadium to cheer on their friends taking part in the track meet. That’s pretty common.

Katie and Isabel aren’t the only Liberty Bell students holding court. Shelby White is on the road (and on a horse) quite often as queen of the Okanogan County Fair. Athena Milani is prepping for her role as queen of the Methow Valley Rodeo, another horseback gig. Both are athletes as well.

I like the way we regard our local monarchies. In the Methow, the royalty — whether in gowns and crowns or cowboy hats and boots — are benevolent rulers who don’t put on airs. Like that would work here anyway.


We’re very proud of our Methow Valley News colleague Darla Hussey, who last weekend was named the first recipient of The Merc Playhouse’s new Steinebach Award for exemplary volunteer contributions to the theater. In a sense, we’re not surprised — her creativity, versatility and cheerful can-do attitude are evident to us every day. She’d have us all in face paint every day if we let her.

Darla is responsible for our graphic design and social media programs, but that just begins to describe all the things she takes on to keep things running smoothly here. If she ever gets tired of us looking her way whenever we have a problem, the most we usually see of it is a dramatic eye roll. She is especially tolerant of me, as I have a tendency to say whatever is bouncing around in my head out loud, without any context, as if I expect her to read my mind. She has the authority to fire me, and has occasionally exercised it for very brief periods.

Just as important to Darla are her various other community activities, which include making productions at The Merc more colorful and engaging. So when she informed us a couple of weeks ago that she had to be at the technical rehearsal for The Merc’s “Rikki Tikki Tavi” production at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday — our busiest day of the week as we get the newspaper ready to go to the press — we made sure we were done on time.

I’m not sure what we’ll do if I am cast in, or direct, another Merc production for which Darla is the costume designer. Early deadlines every week? I could probably use that kind of discipline.


Previous Columns