Next weekend is Memorial Day, another of those events that ratchet up the vacation and tourism industry on the island. First, there was Valentine’s Day, then the tulips, now Memorial Day, then the peak that starts with the Third of July. (Yes, that’s right, the 3rd of July. Check back for that story.) Winter shop hours are passing as proprietors position themselves for a few busy seasons that are as important to the island as Christmas is to stores on the mainland.
Of course, the weather is improving. Typically, the rains (typically just misty showers) will continue for a few more weeks, but the Sun is shining as strongly now as it will be in August. Pair that with winter-soaked soils and watch the blossoms overwhelm the gardens. Peak bloom happens.
This is the time for photographers. The colors are busy, the whales are here but waving farewell until next year, flocks are migrating through. Bring your long lens.
Restaurants were wise enough to cater to the romantics, then shut down for a few weeks or months of remodeling. Fresh decorations, menus updated for fresh produce, expansions and new facilities being unveiled for anyone to enjoy.
Finally, the farmers markets are setting up. That fresh produce isn’t just for the eateries. Take some home yourself and see what a difference never-packaged harvests can make. Or, enjoy the results of a variety of local chefs who do at least some of the work for you. The farmers even coordinate their markets so more days of the week are covered. Fresh food every day, especially if you drop by the u-picks and farm stands.
Event calendars are filling. Now’s the time to announce summer schedules for athletes, performances, art shows, fairs, dances, Thanks to generous patrons who understand the value of a good party, many of the events are free or at least subsidized. This is western Washington, though, so don’t be surprised if outdoor events have backup plans for indoor alternatives.
Marinas refill as boats come out of storage. Boats moored over winter get cleaned. Stout sailors sail throughout the year (particularly when the wind was up for the last few months), but now the regattas become colorful, mobile photo opportunities. Fisherfolk probably had theirs busy based on a different schedule, that of the salmon. Check for crab and clamming seasons, too. (And get the right licenses as well. Catching a ticket isn’t nearly as fun.)
A few things will fade. The population climbs, as does the noise. Compared to a city, the island remains quiet and peaceful, but locals may sigh after months when the loudest sound was an owl several lots down the street, or the bark of a seal from a buoy a half-mile away, or coyotes howling in chorus.
It is the summer energy that fuels the island economy, and the summer starts about a month before the solstice.
In a few months, the peak will pass. A surprising number of visitors will decide to become residents, or at least part-time owners. Real estate agents get busy. Talk to enough locals and find several who dropped by for a weekend and unexpectedly bought a home (or at least made an offer) before they left to return again. (Disclosure: I am a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Tara Properties in Bayview. Drop in. That’s one reason we’re there.)
There are seasons like winter, spring, summer, and fall; but most places have their own set. Whidbey Island definitely has its own.
As I type, a local band is cranking up their basement practice session. They’re probably getting ready for a gig. It is the season.