Port Townsend: Rivers, Forests & Fish Forever

via Occupy Northwest. June 16:

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s part family picnic, part political rally, part hootenanny: “Rivers, Forests & Fish Forever,” a free festival flowing into Fort Worden State Park for the first time this Saturday.

Sallie “Spirit” Harrison, a musician and activist with a lot of musician-activist friends, is inviting everybody to what she calls a “free public service event” to last from noon till 10 p.m. at the state park at 200 Battery Way. Information is available via 360-805-0336.

The festival is not, however, exactly free for all. A Washington state parks Discovery Pass is needed if you want to park on the Fort Worden campus.

But the lineup is impressive at any price: folk songstresses Laura Love and Linda Waterfall, bluegrass-rockabilly guitar-dobro player Orville Johnson and the Seattle zydeco band Filé Gumbo will take the stage, as will Matt Sircely and New Forge, Allen-Alleyoop-Hirsch, children’s entertainer Tim Noah and Harrison’s own two bands, the Zephyr Jazz Band and the Dosewallips Puddle Jumpers.

Storytellers, including internationally known Jamestown S’Klallam elder Elaine Grinnell, will also be part of the day’s offerings.

Harrison, who grew up in Tukwila in the 1950s and ’60s when it was a bucolic town of 1,500 people, lived in Port Townsend for a time in the 1980s. Back then, she and her fellow musicians played at Fort Worden — “in an airplane hangar with a dirt floor,” she recalls.

Now, she lives in Sky Valley but has acquired land near the Dosewallips River. It took more than a year to complete the purchase, and in the process, Harrison said, she learned a lot about the health of the Olympic Peninsula’s rivers, forests and fish.

Galvanized, she decided to have a festival, seized an open date at Fort Worden, sought donations from other wilderness advocates and phoned her friends.

Those include Marc Bristol of Filé Gumbo, who remembers Harrison when she was a teenage street musician in Seattle.

“I hadn’t had much contact with her over the past decade,” Bristol said.

But this Port Townsend party sounded just fine, so Bristol and members of Filé Gumbo will take the stage at 3 p.m.

“We play the full mixture of music you’d find in Louisiana,” he said: “New Orleans rhythm and blues, cajun and zydeco, swamp blues and Dixieland jazz.”

Bristol’s band name comes from a line in the Hank Williams song “Jambalaya,” as many an American music lover knows; it refers to filé, a powder made from sassafras leaves and sprinkled on gumbo, the okra-rich soup.

Rivers, Forests & Fish Forever itself is a gumbo, with its blend of music, children’s activities and presenters.

Harrison, wanting to sprinkle some learning in with the dancing, has invited BJ Cummings of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, tree planter Jim Trainer of Kitsap County’s Treez Inc., and Bainbridge Island storyteller Jeff Leinaweaver to talk about environmental healing.

“Jim Trainer has planted over a million trees . . . He will tell you how to do it,” Harrison said.

Then there will be “a giant fish tent” where children and grownups can learn about salmon biology, and a video wall showing images of the Olympic Mountains.

Harrison has loved these peaks ever since her first solo hike, at age 16, to the High Divide.

“It was a life-changing event,” she said. “I’m a native of Washington. I have watched development and industry ruin a lot of things . . . but there’s something about those Olympics. We have to protect them.”

Noah is yet another friend of Harrison, and an Emmy- and Grammy-winning artist.

“Sallie invited me to lend a hand, and I was happy to oblige . . . I grew up in the country, listening to the birds and bees, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and most especially the Beatles. My music today reflects all these,” he said.

The Snohomish-based artist — who plays guitars including the one he acquired at Farmer’s Music in Burien when he was 12 — will bring a variety of original tunes and stories to Fort Worden, including the environmentally conscious “Great Potato Uprising.” He’s scheduled to perform at 6 p.m. and will have his son, 17-year-old fiddler Jude River Noah, beside him for a few songs.

Laura Love, who is making her first trip to the Peninsula in years — she played the Public House in Port Townsend in 2002 and the Juan de Fuca Festival in Port Angeles in 2008 — will mix her Afro-Celtic folk with protest songs such as “We Shall Overcome” and “Nobody Gonna Turn Me Round.”

“One of the things I activate for is environmental justice,” Love said in a telephone interview from her home on Buck Mountain above the Okanagon Valley. Forests, rivers and fish aren’t simply “resources” to be exploited, she said; they’re irreplaceable sources of beauty
and energy.

Saturday’s performance will pair Love with Orville Johnson, whom she calls one of the world’s few dobro masters as well as “an incredibly tasty guitarist, singer and songwriter.”

It will be just the two of them, in a rare gig. Since Love left Seattle for the mountains three years ago, she’s all but stopped touring, instead devoting herself to growing her own food, processing vegetable oil into biodiesel and speaking out about economic justice. When she travels, she goes to Oakland, Calif., to join the Occupy Oakland demonstrations there.

“I do enjoy the gigs I do, but not living in a van or bus is way OK with me,” Love said.

Harrison, for her part, is thrilled to have Love at her event. Both women are enchanted by the Olympic Peninsula’s natural beauty; both women hope the blend of words and music will energize those who come to the fort on Saturday.

The event, Harrison said, will be about outreach — from the performers and person to person in the crowd.

“I believe in the power of the spoken word,” she added. “I’ve told all the presenters: Be prepared to speak from your heart.”

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