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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Home Page Stories & Photos
The most in-depth, comprehensive site about the Skagit

Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
Noel V. Bourasaw, editor (bullet) 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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What's New in Concrete Updated Jan. 2010:
Concrete theater reopens; this is the genuine article

(Concrete Theater)
Fred West in front of an Honest-to-God old-fashioned movie projector. He's the mostly silent partner in the Concrete Theatre.

      Update: The Concrete Theater, a historical edifice that has stood for decades as multiplexes mushroomed, reopened on Feb. 12, 2010. Valerie Stafford has dressed the interior of the theater in red, created a cozy atmosphere for both movies and live performances and created an instant social center for Concrete just in time before the tourist season begins.
      We warn you now: never underestimate Valerie Stafford. This is the latest of her growing string of successes that are based on the gen-yoo-ine article, as the pioneers often said. With her husband, Fred West, she is joining the proud line of people like Breon Williams who refuse to let the old Concrete movie theater die. All the old Skagit Valley theaters except for the proud Lincoln in Mount Vernon have long ago fallen to the wrecking ball or have been converted to other retail uses.
      She has gained visibility in the past three years as she shared her energy as both a public relations voice for the United General Hospital and as a very enthusiastic booster of the town of Concrete as director of the Chamber of Commerce. Some of you might remember the doom and gloom that lung like a cloud over that village a few years ago, while Main Street was blocked by construction and visitors rarely ventured off of Hwy. 20 to see one of the most interesting downtown areas in the valley.
      One day during that period, I quaffed a ceremonial pint at The Hub tavern on Main Street, sort of an annual event to worship at the last beautiful mahogany back bar in northwestern Washington. One of the local wags who also remembered the deep recession of 1971 declared that we were present at the death of Concrete as a tourist destination. "'Remember the billboard,' he asked the rest of us at the table, "the one with the light-bulb and the pull-cord, with the legend, 'Will the last one leaving Seattle please turn out the light?" Ah-hah, he declared, it happens again.
      And then along came Valerie Stafford. Some of you may recall her family bona fides: the Staffords packed people all over the Cascades and her family tree also includes the late Herb Larsen, who inspired the original Concrete Museum. Those of you who have motored up to Concrete in the last couple of yearsto experience the first modern Mardi Gras night in the county; or the Ghost Walk, peopled by characters in costume from the upriver-Skagit past, and they restored the activities of Cascade Days and instituted a fall-colors tour that is exceptional, then you know the drill. She follows through and her creative ideas come to fruition. We wish her and Fred the very best for the theatre and we urge you to join us all who will applaud the reopening of the Concrete Theatre on February 12. Literally, read all about it and keep abreast of plans for that night and the future.

KSVU radio on the air, with your help
      KSVU open house, Concrete. The new radio station welcomes you to join Rip Robbins and the staff and help plan for this launch. KSVU FM, the sister station to KSVR FM at Skagit Valley College, is poised to become an interesting presence on Main Street and a true benefit to the community. You're invited to attend a KSVU meeting this Thursday, February 25, at 6 p.m. in the Concrete Theatre. You'll have a chance to ask questions about the station, learn what it takes to get something like this started, and get in on the ground floor of a great new venture. this news and Jason Miller's astounding success with the reborn Concrete Herald likely make Concrete the only town in the whole country where a new newspaper and a new radio station, both in the same year, in this roller-coaster economy. Especially if you do the math, per-capitawise.

2010 Mardi Gras scheduled for February 20

See our accompanying story about the rebirth of the Concrete Herald. You can read about the plans of Jason Miller and how you can participate in reviving an upriver newspaper. Update: We are happy to report that Jason followed through and produces a fine paper

      The Concrete Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the third annual Mardi Gras celebration in Concrete on February 20. The fun starts at noon with a colorful parade on Main Street, and includes a cake walk, art contest, shoe drive, and tours and a movie at the historic Concrete Theatre.
      Individuals, groups and businesses are all invited to be part of the Mardi Gras parade, with check-in and line-up near the Post Office at 11 a.m. Parade entry forms are available at the Chamber office in the Skagit County Resource Center. A small entry fee is required; parade participants of all kinds, ages, shapes and sizes are welcome. The only rule is that each entry includes the official Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. The parade will be held regardless of weather.
      The newly reopened Concrete Theatre will get in the Mardi Gras spirit by offering tours of the historic building from 1 to 3 p.m., and playing the New Orleans-based Disney film, The Princess and the Frog, at 5 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. General admission is $6, with $1 discounts for elders and kids. For other movie times, call (360) 941-0403.
      Other post-parade activities include Log Rollin' Bowlin', Shabby Chic Flea Market and the Big Rig Exhibit, including fire trucks, ambulances, tractors and more, all planned for Main Street. Flea market vendors are invited to apply to participate. Applications are available in the Concrete Chamber office, $5 per vendor. Beginning at 3:00 p.m. in the Historic Concrete Theatre, the Mardi Gras madness will continue with live music and refreshments. Musicians from the groups Spin Cycle and Harvey Swanson & the Only for a Moment band will perform until 7 p.m. A cover charge of $3 per person will be collected at the door; drinks and treats will be for sale inside the Theatre. For more information, please contact the Concrete Chamber of Commerce at (360) 853-7621 or More details are also available at

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See the Concrete website for the centennial celebration of Concrete in May 2009

Concrete's amazing Chamber of Commerce promotions
      Just three years ago or so, upriver folks were singing the blues about how people were driving right by Concrete as Main Street in Concrete was ripped up for repairs. The old T-P Inn was dark and then the Cajun Inn suffered a fire. But that was yesterday. Today, Concrete has come roaring back and a team of very creative and tireless people are at the lead of the pack, most notably Valerie Stafford, who has encouraged a whole new group of Concrete business owners to present a new can-do image that reminds us that oft-heralded "pioneer spirit." And the T-P Inn is now the Red Cedars Inn and seems to be doing well. This is the most fun the town has had since Robert DeNiro and DiCaprio came to town to shoot the movie, This Boy's Life. In 2009, however, instead of spraying cement dust on the repainted business fronts, the Chamber is staging their second annual Mardi Gras and parade
      "Come See Concrete" will continue with these events later in the year: "Best place to kiss in Concrete" online photo contest; St. Patrick's Day dinner; Photography workshop and photo contest; Health and fitness fair; Annual Concrete ghost walk; Fun run/walk. Also look for details of the Journal's third Skagit County History Photo and Documents Show, which will be scheduled for later in 2009. We have been impressed with Stafford's whole campaign. Instead of presenting an agenda and hoping that people would take part, she and the Chamber board used the Internet effectively to survey the business owners. They challenged their members to come up with creative ideas — Mardi Gras being an example — and then the best ideas with the most enthusiasm behind them were selected for the year-long campaign.
      If there was a turning point in Concrete's Public relations and image, it was during the "Ghost Walk" at Halloween time, when historic figures in period dress and costume strolled through Concrete and across the Thompson Bridge and people came from as far away as Oak Harbor and Arlington to be scared or amused, take your pick. Once again, we want to congratulate Valerie Stafford, who doubles as public relations representative of United General Hospital and as president of the Concrete Chamber of Commerce. She has benefited from the experience of the "old-timers," among whom we once again see Cheri Cook-Blodgett and Annie Bussiere, and the newer businesses, including Birdsview Brewery and Challenger Ridge Winery. Valerie explains below the results of the Halloween Ghost Walk.

Concrete enjoys a revival of tourism
      We were very pleased a year ago last summer when we were introduced to Valerie Safford, the new president of the Concrete Chamber of Commerce (and publicist for United General Hospital), who shared a whole schedule of events for the summer on the Baker River. The Sockeye Express, a colorful 12-seat, open-air tour bus, will again run on Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, departing from the Senior Center at the location of the old Great Northern depot, just off Hwy 20. The 45-minute history tour runs west to Silo Park, back through downtown, and out through Cement City (Peg-Leg Everett's original town east of the Baker River), including a stop at the Puget Sound Energy fish taxi facility.
      The late Herb Larsen's original Camp Seven Museum, named for the English Logging Co. camp, has been renovated as the Concrete Heritage Museum and the volunteers hope to have it open by Memorial Day weekend. It will then be open weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. 7380 Thompson Avenue (one block off Main Street), Concrete, WA 98237. Call 360 853-7042 for appointments and tours out of season. Robin Wood has continued doing an excellent job there.
      Wine lovers will want to look for Challenger Ridge Vineyards, just west of Concrete. This outdoor venue is ideal for your wedding, reunion, private event, corporate event, or any special occasion. They will host a Memorial Day Open House on May 26-28 with BBQ, music, movies, tastings and weekend camping. Camping in the Vineyard is a treat from Memorial Day through crush time in early October. See the website and call or email the winery for reservations and rates on limited availability. Also see Jazz in the Vineyard, scheduled for every Saturday from June through September, 1-7 p.m.
      And for craft-beer lovers, nearby Birsdview Brewing near the historic Stump Ranch is a Mecca. Visit their tasting room from noon-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m., Friday & Saturday and noon-9 p.m., Sunday. You will also enjoy live music by Dave Nellis on Sunday afternoons.
      This new rush of activity reminds me of the days a decade ago when I edited the International Loop Travel Guide and Merrilyn and Dave Williams promoted Concrete out of the T-P Inn and Annie Bussiere publicized the town in the old Concrete Herald and the Argus. Concrete has such a rich history, dating back to Peg-Leg Everett, the Baker River dam and the cement companies and we want to help reinvigorate interest in this historic area that was once the market crossroads for the upper Skagit River. Meanwhile, we salute Valerie Safford, Tim Cooley, Annie Bussiere, Philip Moran and Gaylyn Harrington for the time and effort that are putting into the Concrete Chamber.
      By the way, those of you who might assume that the T-P Inn was named for an Indian teepee, old-timers will point out that it is actually derived from the Latin scientific name for the Western red cedar that grew in abundance throughout the valley and the foothills of the North Cascades, Thuja plicata.

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Story posted on May 7, 2007, last updated Jan. 10, 2009
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