Marriages, memorials and merriment of all kinds once happened at the Grange, the center of rural social life since 1867. But the future of grange halls is bleak. Slowly but surely, these rural institutions are being neglected, abandoned, torn down or converted to something else. But a few still survive — and even thrive — such as our Twisp Valley Grange, originally built in 1911, the only surviving grange out of 13 built in the Methow Valley.
I visited our local grange on a morning when most of the board members and officers were industriously decorating Christmas cookies for The Cove, the local food bank. Piping bags that looked like big green carrots squirted icing on sugar cookies, and in the kitchen, Mary Jane Perry, the Special Projects Director, prepared the frosting and organized the workers. “I’ve already gone through 15 pounds of powdered sugar,” she told me as she ladled colored frosting into the piping bags. In between flurries of activity, she told me a bit about the Twisp Valley Grange.
Mary Jane told me that the COVID epidemic hit the grange hard, and now they’re trying to revive it. “We need events that will give people a reason to join,” she said, “especially something that would bring all generations together.” She would like to see more farmers involved along with regularly scheduled dances.
This last year, the grange hosted “Potlucks with a Purpose” with the intent of disseminating information from and for local farmers, gardeners and the general public while gathering for a potluck dinner. Sam Thrasher of Double Tree Farms Grade-A dairy; the owners of Willow Brook Farm, an organic farm selling produce and cultured foods; the TwispWorks Director of Economic Development; and the Master Gardeners of Okanogan County all gave presentations. “Potlucks with a Purpose” ended the season with a harvest potluck, the tables in the grange beautifully decorated, the diners serenaded by live music.
In October, the Grange collaborated with Methow Recycles to host the Harvest Fest. Methow Recycles reported: “From pie making to poultry processing, beekeeping and incredibly creative upcycled kids’ crafts, fun was had by all at this year’s Harvest Fest. It was a great time learning and celebrating everything that makes rural living so special.”
I attended and was particularly impressed with the poultry processing demonstration. Yes, there was a live demonstration from start to finish that involved dispatching a chicken, putting it in a hot water bath followed by the plucking machine, and finishing up with pulling out the innards. All equipment needed for processing chickens will be available at Methow Recycles tool library.
Granges have famously hosted year-round dances that entire families could attend. Remember those scenes in Westerns where everyone’s square dancing and fooling around? That would be the Grange. In the last weekend in October, Dwight Filer,vice-president of the Twisp Valley Grange, organized a dance that was well-attended by “ages one through eighty.” The tradition of dances for all ages, bridging generations, is their latest aspiration, Mary Jane told me. “Our grange has a floating floor,” she said. “The best dance floor in the valley.”
Who knew that the humble building on 344 W. Second Avenue in Twisp provided so much to our community? But it can’t survive without our help. Check out what’s happening at the Grange, donate, become a member, or rent the building for an event — and keep this venerable institution alive.