May Hunt draws crowd on warm weekend

From left, Arlington Garden Club volunteers Meg Jacobson and Leona Tovrea admit that many of their sales are made to fellow members. - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times
From left, Arlington Garden Club volunteers Meg Jacobson and Leona Tovrea admit that many of their sales are made to fellow members.
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times

ARLINGTON Downtown Arlington was bustling with activity as the Downtown Arlington Business Association's May Hunt returned to Olympic Avenue May 12.

For the first time, the Arlington Garden Club's spring plant sale took place in conjunction with the May Hunt, due to an unusually cool April, but Garden Club volunteers believe the warmer weather of May might have put them in a Catch-22.

"April was too cold to do this," said Garden Club volunteer Carrol Jacques at midday. "It's been slow so far, though. With the heat, I think lot of folks have taken off for the lake today."

Jacques reported that activity had started picking up around noon and noted that the shoppers they'd had were not shy about buying in bulk, with one customer alone hauling off an estimated two to three carloads of plants. Still, she and other Garden Club members recalled previous years' sales selling out as early as 1 p.m., and agreed that they'd probably schedule their sale for a different date next year.

"Our sale is not really the primary destination this year, with the May Hunt going on at the same time," said Garden Club volunteer Judy Ness.

Arlington Garden Club President Tina Nelson boasted about the variety of plants on sale, grown by Garden Club members including shrubs, herbs, perennials, edibles, trees and rockery. She joined Ness and fellow Garden Club volunteer Jean Olson in listing the programs that the plant sale supports, from plant care seminars with speakers, that are open to the public, to planting trees on Centennial Trail and maintaining the library and Mayor's gardens.

Barely a few steps away from the Garden Club's tables beside the Mayor's garden, the city parking lot was packed with vendors' tents, offering everything from garage sales of clothes and jewelry to items made by the sellers themselves.

City of Arlington On-Site Construction Manager Terry Marsh and Community Development Director Dave Kuhl were both in attendance, but not in an official capacity. It was both men's first year as vendors of handmade goods at the May Hunt.

Kuhl brought his wife's ceramics, including one piece she'd only just finished the day before, while Marsh proudly displayed the results of his winter woodworking.

"This area of the country has a lot of different clays and glazes from the ones that were available in Arizona," said Kuhl, a former Arizona resident. "It's awesome to see all this camaraderie in downtown Arlington. It seems like everybody knows everybody else in this town."

In all his years in Arlington, this year marked the first that Marsh had enough time to produce pieces for the May Hunt, which he credited to the winter weather.

"It warms my soul to build stuff out in my shop," said Marsh, who used wood from the O'Neil farm, the Blacker mill in Oso and a building located between Everett and Mukilteo.

Marsh was eager to point out the differences between the peak-topped, square-legged Northwestern-style woodwork, versus his square-topped, splay-legged Southwestern-style pieces. He also revealed the secrets of aging the wood and its metal parts to look like antiques, with muriatic acid.

"I just have a passion for building stuff," Marsh said. "It's the peace of being out in your shop, and the satisfaction of getting something done. I have nothing but the highest compliments for what DABA has done here. It takes a lot of dedication to put the May Hunt together, and they got a good cross-section of a lot of good vendors."

Lakewood High School junior Jessica LaPlante was selling baked goods, and her father was selling his own woodwork, to help pay for her trip to the 2009 Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. Between the plane tickets and the expenses that she will be expected to cover while staying in Washington, D.C., she needs to raise $3,000 by September.

"I'll get to meet Lance Armstrong, visit the Smithsonian and the memorials, witness the inauguration and attend the black-tie gala ball," said LaPlante, who received a personal invitation to the conference.

LaPlante hopes to enlist a dozen of her friends in a car wash fundraiser in July, and is considering working security for Seattle Seahawks games, as she and her classmates did for a scholastic trip to California. At the same time, she continues to work at State Farm Insurance and participate in the Snohomish County Health and Safety Network, a community-based program working toward the reduction and prevention of youth violence and substance abuse.

"I don't want to go into politics, though," LaPlante said. "I like arguing, but not that much. This is my first time selling stuff at the May Hunt. It's nice to see so many people. It's hot but fun."

Marysville resident Jerry Howard was yet another first-time vendor at the May Hunt, selling a product he'd invented and started selling in China.

"Hunger was my inspiration," laughed Howard, as he held up his "2 Easy Chops" chopsticks holder.

Howard came up with the idea during a trip to China three years ago, when he bent a piece of metal to allow him to operate chopsticks more easily. Since then, he's obtained a patent for the device in China, manufactured 14,000 of the items to date, and released several themed series of the devices, including chopsticks holders with artwork and logos commemorating this year's summer Olympics in Beijing.

"We've also got personalized series for cities like Seattle and San Francisco," Howard said. "We'll do one for Arlington if we can sell enough of them here. The May Hunt is a wonderfully friendly event. You can't plan better weather than what we've had today."

Downtown Arlington businesses got into the act as well, by hauling out tables for a sidewalk sale. SchoolBox owner and DABA member Nola Smith was tickled by the foot traffic that the May Hunt brought to her store.

"I'm so glad we can do something to bring out so many people," Smith said. "It brings them into town and creates a really good network. Even the ones who don't buy are able to see what we have."

Smith also let visitors to her store know that the SchoolBox will host a home-school parent qualifying class, Tuesdays from 6-9:30 p.m., from May 27-June 24. The course is sponsored by Cascade Bible College, but is not religious n nature, and fulfills the legal requirements for educating children independently at home. For more information, call Smith at 360-403-8885.

Mary Green of Evonne's Antiques was likewise supportive of the May Hunt, but she wished that the event could have focused less on one end of Olympic Avenue, a sentiment shared by local customer Harold Williams.

"It's too compacted down there by the parking lot," Williams said. "They should just block off the whole street, like they used to, so that people could stroll the length of Olympic Avenue. It's more fun that way."

Green informed her own visitors of the paper and fiber bending art sale and demonstrations taking place at Evonne's Antiques July 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

First-time customer Stephannie Estrada of Sedro-Woolley found the May Hunt fun enough, even though she jokingly considered it false advertising.

"We couldn't find May anywhere," laughed Estrada, who was informed of the event by friends living in Arlington. "This my third time through the vendors' tents and I've found several other things on each trip. There's plenty of space to look and walk around. It's been good times."

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