Art Works Blog

Listening In on Washington's Cascade Loop

Washington, DC

Rob Johnson serenades downtown Leavenworth with his alpenhorn from the balcony of the Enzian Inn. Photo by Jill Linzee, courtesy of Northwest Heritage Resources

By Adam Green, Public Affairs

The Cascade Loop, Washington?s scenic stretch of connected highways in the northern part of the state, is popular not only for its vistas, but also for its different cultures and folk arts. Northwest Heritage Resources, a not-for-profit dedicated to conserving and documenting the cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest, recently partnered with a tourism organization to create an audio tour of the southern half of the Cascade Loop.

What?s unique about the tour?s geography, says Jill Linzee, executive director of Northwest Heritage Resources, is that it links the western and eastern cultures of the state, combining two very different landscapes. While the west is a very verdant, rainy region, sporting the big urban centers of Seattle and Tacoma, the east has a more arid landscape, a history of ranching, cowboy culture, and orchard and wine industries.

But more than the differences in the region?s natural beauty, the tour celebrates the heterogeneous blend of heritages and traditions found throughout the Cascade Loop, courtesy of generations of immigrant workers. Scattered through these towns are practitioners of Latvian traditional dance, Norwegian woodworking and knitting, and Vietnamese music. In the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the Bavarian town of Leavenworth recalls the pioneering Germans who settled in this region of the state. The town initially adopted the idea of making Leavenworth a Bavarian village to help promote tourism; in an example of art imitating life, several generations are now deeply entrenched in that identity, practicing traditional mural painting and traveling to Germany to study Bavarian music and dancing.

Chainsaw carver Steven Bonham poses next to the carving of an eagle he made for his neighbors in Gold Bar. Photo by Jill Linzee, courtesy of Northwest Heritage Resources

The cultural traditions of the area are closely tied to the industry: logger poetry and chainsaw carving are two of the arts highlighted in the tour. Often an artistic heritage has sprung from immigrant professions: Mexican-Americans, many of whom came to work in the orchards of the area, are recognized via an annual Mariachi band competition in the town of Wenatchee. North Carolina Tar Heels who traveled west to work the woods of the Pacific Northwest, brought with them bluegrass music, still a dominating sound in some of the rural communities here.

Funded in part by the NEA, the two-CD audio tour features folk poetry, music, and narratives from regional craftsmen, including vintners, river rafters, and metalworkers.  In the meantime, Northwest Heritage Resources remains hard at work on their next audio tour, covering the northern route of the Cascade Loop.

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