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Choochokam returns to take over Langley
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, or so it seems for Patricia Larzelier, owner of The Mermaid’s Tears, who crafts delicate, handmade jewelry from beach glass.
These pieces of glass are tossed about in the ocean waves after being thrown from the cliffs or the hands of careless beach-goers. The origins are as various as the colors of the shards and the accoutrement into which Larzelier molds them: green from bottles, red and yellow from car lights, turquoise from antique glassware.
Larzelier, along with 76 other art and craft vendors, will be showing her wares at the 39th annual Choochokam Arts Foundation festival from 10 a.m. Saturday, July 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 13 in Langley.
Along with paintings, jewelry, sculpture, glassware and other artistic wares, there will also be plenty of opportunity for attendees to sample the craftsmanship of local chefs, bakers, brewers and vintners from any of the 9-10 food stations.
The free festival will maintain its traditional tempo with live music of various genres from over 30 original area bands, including Will West and the Friendly Strangers, The Druthers, Br’er Rabbit, Weatherside Whiskey and more. Bands will play on one of two stages: the Main Stage on First and Anthes streets and the Pavilion Stage at Useless Bay Coffee Company on Second Street.
Attendees may want to tune up their two-step for the Saturday evening street dance which will feature bands Letters from Traffic, the Ben Rice Blues Band and 20 Riverside beginning at 5 p.m.
James Orr of 20 Riverside, who describes the band’s style as “Chicago with rappers” or “Chicago plus Tower of Power plus The Roots,” said this will be the band’s fifth time performing at Choochokam. Bass player Dave Luxmore said, “I enjoy making a day out of the festival. I get to bring my family, nephews included, and the whole thing is just great. I love that it’s like a street party. And heck, we brought the family there the year we didn’t play just because it is a great festival.”
Orr said he enjoys the atmosphere of Langley, the smell of the ocean and the tight-knit community. “Everything is local and small-town, in a good way. There is no Starbucks, no McDonald’s. There are always amazing artists and musicians and everybody makes you feel so welcome and appreciated,” he said.
Marc Esterly, Langley Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that Langley’s evolution into an “arts hub” of a community with 10 independent art galleries and several resident artists, makes it an ideal location for Choochokam.
“Langley is a tremendous oasis of the arts,” he said. “The crafts and artifacts presented at the Choochokam festival as well as the performers [are demonstrative of that].”
Esterly said Saturday night’s street dance is quite popular and attracts people of all ages and musical persuasions. “Whatever your dance step is, there is probably a dance that will come up,” he said.
Celia Black, entertainment chairperson for the Choochokam Arts Foundation, said new features of this year’s event include an expanded non-profit booth area in the U.S. Bank parking lot to highlight the work of local organizations, and a new Main Stage complete with festival lighting to enhance the experience of the Saturday night street dance.
Bruce Allen, who serves on the Choochokam board of directors, said he expects the event to attract anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people from on and off the island.
“Langley is an art community basically. There’s a lot of artists in the area that like to show off their wares. There’s also a lot of vendors from off the island. It’s just a great thing for the community to do this,” he said. “We’ve done it for so long it’s kind of an institution.”
Larzelier, who also makes jewelry from beach pebbles, said Whidbey Island is a treasure trove for artistic materials just as it is a haven for artists like herself. Like many of Choochokam’s participants and attendees, Larzelier has been returning to the festival to share her wares and her enthusiasm for the arts for several years. She said she particularly enjoys the positive feedback she receives from visitors who hail from shores as distant as the East Coast and beyond.
In an effort to allow all arts enthusiasts to have a good time, a Kid’s Zone with face-painting, chalk art, puppet-making and entertainment from the Northwest Language Academy and Whidbey Children’s Theater will be open for the younger crowd at Langley Park, at Second and Anthes streets.
Golf carts will be available to drive individuals in need of assistance from parking to the center of town.
There will also be a free shuttle running all day from the Clinton ferry dock to Langley and back for those walking onto the ferry from Mukilteo.
“I enjoy it. I just enjoy talking to all of the folks that come into town; they’re all nice people,” said Allen. “It’s just a big state of mass confusion and fun.”