March 25, 2002
The lighter side of Northshore
By Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
Fun doesn't come naturally to everyone. Dr. Seuss's famous feline, The Cat in the Hat, said it best, "It's fun to have fun but you have to know how." People who live in Woodinville, Bothell and town of Grace definitely know how.
Woodinville turns humor into an annual event at the All Fools' Day Parade each spring.
Back in the late 70s, four Woodinville business owners conceived the idea for the parade. While dining at the Wellington Hills Golf Course, the group brainstormed various ways to bring the community together in a fun way. One of the four,Woodinville Weekly publisher Carol Edwards asked, "What could we do to celebrate spring and be lighthearted?"
They came up with an idea for a parade for families in recognition of April Fools' Day. Soon the idea took off and many community members volunteered to take part. Fifteen hundred kids participated in the first parade, along with clowns on motorcycles, horses and a lot of baseball teams.
A few years later the Basset Bash joined the lighthearted procession. The idea for a brigade of hounds began as a joke in honor of the new Northeast 175th development. Many of the marching dogs showed off in costumes, one dressed as Superman, and another as a spaceship. The amusement and good time brought on by the event gave Woodinville the celebration of spring and sense of community that the four business owners had hoped for. Says Edwards, "If people feel ownership of their town, they relate better and take more interest."
Woodinville isn't alone in the quest for fun. The town of Grace, north of Woodinville, not only spends time having fun, but abides by the motto that "having fun is serious business." Never mind that much of the town is a state of mind. That doesn't bother its 12 citizens including Terry Jarvis, owner of Vintage Auto Parts.
Years ago Jarvis realized his business was in the region once known as Grace and decided to revive the long-lost town. He erected a city sign and declared himself mayor-for-life. Much of the town lives only in the imagination, like the town mascot "Scape" the goat. But there are "real" events.
Last year, Grace officials held the Grand Planting of the Vineyards. Sixty people attended, including local business owners, Woodinville city officials and a King County councilmember. Attendees nibbled on chocolate and grapes, then got down on hands and knees to plant grapevines in an area known as the Desoto Gardens. The bottles of Pinot Noir wine that the grapes will produce after their harvest in 2003 have already sold at $101 per bottle. Proceeds from the sale goes to the Woodinville Rotary. But everyone involved benefits. "Our aim," says Mayor Jarvis, "is to put some humor and smiles in the community - not only in Grace, but in Woodinville and even Hollywood Hill(s)." Grace brings smiles in other ways too, like the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade (cancelled for this year) and the town's online newspaper. The electronic edition of the Greater Grace Gazette includes editorials dealing with local and national issues. After America learned that President George W. Bush had fainted from choking on a pretzel, editor John B. Hughes wrote, "The township of Grace today put the pretzel industry on notice that any pretzel packages, cans or bags found in Grace must carry a health-hazard warning label."
At Armadillo Barbecue on Northeast 175th in Woodinville humorous witticisms painted on storefront glass have amused passing motorists since 1986. One-liner quips inscribed in white tempera paint on the restaurant's window have included, "cream of weasel soup" or "deep dish dog fish" or "haircuts while you dine."
Eric Forrer, general manager, explains the restaurant's brand of humor: "We never take ourselves too seriously. We just like to have fun."
Even so, the fun-loving people at Armadillo Barbecue have their humor slumps.
During February this year, the restaurant's windows glistened with emptiness; blank glass gazed toward the street. Customers began to ask what happened to the funny sayings? Forrer offers an explanation, "Writer's block," he says. But he quickly adds, "But we were still funny on the inside."
The restaurant treats customers comfortably but also irreverently. "We're a more laid-back fun restaurant," says Forrer. "And family friendly."
Bruce Gill, who owns the restaurant with his brother Bob, majored in English when in college and has always liked a play on words. His muse, along with Bob's help, ignites many of the funny sayings.
Sometimes customers contribute suggestions of their own Ñ one year a local elementary school teacher brought in comical ideas supplied by her students. Forrer says that anyone who comes up with a funny saying the restaurant chooses to put on their front window will have the pleasure of two free dinners plus beverages as their reward. "Non-alcoholic," he clarifies.
Meanwhile, if the restaurant's funny lines don't entice customers to stop in, the staff has plenty of other surprises. Watch for rubber ducks floating in the parking lot's mud puddles this spring.
Down the road in Bothell, the Loose Caboose Espresso stand has a good time with words also. Across from Brooks Biddle Chevrolet, the Caboose sometimes has funny, random discounts emblazoned on its reader board. "Got hairy toes? 50 cents off!" the reader board beckoned one week at the drive-thru business. Linda Entz, who owns the espresso stand with her husband Larry, laughs heartily recalling the toe discount offer.
"We're kind of known as being off the wall," she explains. Customers got in on the fun. Grown women, she says, took their shoes off and stuck their bare foot out the car window as proof of their eligibility for a discount.
While the citizens of Grace consider the dangers of snacks, citizens from Woodinville and Bothell kill each other with comedy.
Dennis Fox facilitates a Humor Roundtable at the Northshore Senior Center (NSC). The group of men and women, who Fox refers to as 'senior hams,' crack jokes to one another for an hour and a half once a month. The Roundtable is an offshoot of a class offered at the NSC by Susy Favaro, MSW, on the healing benefits of humor. Says Fox of his roundtable group, "We emphasize the benefits of health and well-being, but that's only a small part of it."
The group spends most of their time sharing amusing quotes, relating funny personal incidents and telling jokes. "Laughter is the best medicine," says Fox, "but laughing at yourself is even better." His philosophy is "don't get mad, get funny."
Millie Buchanan doesn't get mad, instead she shoots people with soap bubbles from her bubble gun. Buchanan leads a clown group, also at the NSC.
The clowns entertain at parades, including the annual parades at Bothell, Kenmore and Woodinville. In white face paint, a screaming red wig and cowboy boots, Buchanan greets parade-goers, sings, dances and hands out candy. She also pops a shower of bubbles toward the crowd. One of the clowns in her group plays the piano and another does face painting. Buchanan, who ran a dance school in Seattle for 25 years, likes performing and making people smile. "When you smile and laugh, you feel much better," she says. "I say a smile travels around the world as you smile at someone and they smile at someone else."
Woodinville resident Paul Waterman enjoys smiling too. He usually witnesses the curious expressions of people driving slowly by his pasture. Many crank their heads out their car windows to get a better look, charmed by the three larger-than-life metal cows in his field. The cow, bull and calf are the welded creations of Waterman's neighbor and they draw the attention of passers-by on the Woodinville-Redmond Road. Waterman explains that his neighbor was inspired to weld the metal bovines after traveling to California where he saw a steel cow along the road. Back home, the neighbor began to weld a similar one out square-foot steel pieces, fuel tanks and a soup kettle for an udder. Waterman consented the use of his pasture for the display of the metal sculptures. Was there a reason for building the cows? Waterman answers, "Just all for fun." As an aside, he mentions that the cow also has plumbing installed for the realistic look of bodily function. Waterman chuckles, "It does everything but talk."
Whether ogling rusty cows or buying a latte with bare feet in the air, the people of Woodinville, Bothell and Grace have benefited from their sense of humor. In fact, healing can be aided by smiling. Scientists have identified a physical connection between the nerves of the facial muscles and a specific area of the brain that is capable of releasing health-enhancing chemicals. Smiling and laughter reduces stress, boosts immunity, rests the brain, maintains hope, bolsters morale and brightens the gray days.
For cyber humor, Grace officials have a special offer. They will send breaking Grace news events directly to the computers of those who e-mail their e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org.