Fantastic music by international and local artists saturated our little town Thursday through Saturday; it was both exciting and exhausting.
Concert goers I spoke with in the tasting room and each evening when we ventured out lamented the distance of the camp ground from the downtown with no shuttles to quicken the pace and the delays in getting the campsites set up, hotel goers were less bothered by these things, of course, but parking and road closures made for interesting delays in getting to the festival the first time around. But everyone enjoyed the music. Sunday, gas stations had lines of vehicles of all descriptions preparing for the drive ahead. Alaska Airlines increased the number of flights in and out of our fair valley, that meant the airline and TSA workers were on overtime before all returned to ‘normal’ today.
Many locals emerged from self-imposed seclusion on Sunday, enjoying the cooler sunny day to explore the remains of this major event. Most had peaked in at the stage and various open-ground-turned-camp-ground earlier in the week. By nightfall Sunday, with the evidence gone, this music weekend will be relegated to social media posts and memories.
There is vocal discontent from some down town businesses as the rose-colored glasses distributed last winter were clouded with reality: the music and fans were great, business not so hot. The benefits to the majority fell short if my conversations are accurate. The City of Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce might have to offer olive branches before continuing on as usual. Promises of leaving things better than before the concert are yet to be evaluated.
That said, GOTR shook up our status-quo, brought a whole new demographic of people to our beautiful valley and suggested the possibility that we didn’t have to be a wine tourism only community. Fabulous wine, excellent food, a couple of breweries, theatre, symphony, and a smattering of boutique shops are our infrastructure, maybe some more breweries and a distillery or two would be good to round out visitor options. I have enjoyed participating in music festivals in previous towns I have lived in. Might it be time to host a music festival here each year, building upon the great foundation already in place? We pride ourselves on being bike-friendly, would a bike event or marathon be worth pursuing? There are visual artists here, maybe we need to encourage a major art event?
Transitions can be tough, but without change there is little or nothing to encourage growth and continued pleasant living. As a transplant to Walla Walla I am happy with the joyful, low-keyed attitude that is here. It isn’t about stirring the pot, but about recognizing what is valuable in the pot and celebrating it. Last year Walla Walla was named as one of the top ten wine destinations in the world at a youthful thirty years, we are recognized for our warm, welcoming attitude and excellent colleges, but that doesn’t have to be all we excel at.
It was very fun to visit with people from South Africa, by way of Portland and Manhattan, and various other locations I would enjoy visiting some time. I hope the few that I exchanged contact information with will become better acquaintances before their next Walla Walla visit. I personally am quite happy with the GOTR stopover. That said, late nights (dancing with my hubby was a delightful part of a couple of them) and working each day, I am ready for a couple of days off to sleep in, try not to catch a cold that seems to have infiltrated my lowered defenses and wrap up some projects. What do you enjoy most about your community? If you could add something to it, what would it be?
A few social media photo sourced photos to help you visualize our terrific weekend: