Some End Of Summer Things

Well, that certainly is an unspecific title; but that can be the feel of the end of summer. The big announcements came early to give time for marketing and advertising. (Though this year there were delays from uncertainty.) As Labor Day approaches, the unofficial end of Summer means many things are already passed, and any subsequent events have already been announced. But, Summer or not, there are always things worth mentioning.

A couple of those big events worth mentioning are music events. The Oak Harbor Music Festival, which is free and will happen over the Labor Day Weekend; and DjangoFest nearer the Equinox, and has ticketed events, but also has free jam sessions are various places throughout Langley.

And then there are the topics, there are many things being mentioned that may be easier to find in conversations than in publications.

Is Whidbey suddenly busier, or does it just feel that way? Summer is busier than the rest of the year, but is this summer busier than usual? Some are saying that this feels different, as if tourism is up (which it is), but also as if there are more people spending more time here than usual. The data may not be available, but the wonder is whether #WorkFromHome and #LearnFromHome and #GetMeOutOf(fill-in-the-blank-with-some-other-state) means that after Labor Day the long-time locals may find that they are sharing the traffic with new locals.

The drive over the bridge and the ferry lines seem longer. True, the bridge is being repaired and maintained. True, the ferry system has had issues finding enough un-infected crew to staff the boats. Or, are there just that many more cars and trucks trying to conduct regular daily chores?

The ferries aren’t the only place with workforce issues. Many restaurants and shops have limited their hours because they can’t find enough cooks and servers to take care of customers. On the other side of the situation, workers are having trouble finding jobs that pay enough to let them live on the island, and if they can’t live on the island then they might find other jobs closer to their new homes.

Speaking of homes, the very busy real estate market continues. (Required disclosure: I am a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. See my recent presentation of real estate and affordability trend data for the island.) Prices continue to rise, though there’s debate about whether we just watched a peak pass by. After Summer will the prices relax, or will the fundamental mismatch between supply and demand continue to drive the prices higher? Whidbey is getting expensive, but so are all of the major islands. Whidbey remains the least expensive of the main ferry-serviced islands: Vashon, Bainbridge, Whidbey, San Juan. Rentals aren’t easy to find, either. But are the buyers buying their fourth home and may only be here 1/4th the time, or are enough of them buying to live here closer to full-time? Wait until after Labor Day. Will the other islands become so expensive that small towns like Langley and Coupeville become surrogates to Friday Harbor?

Masks rules are on and off and check back on a daily basis. Check the door to every public building because, regardless of any government, the people who work there may have health issues that must be guarded against. Feel sorry for restaurants who are trying to get people through the front doors, while wondering if they are going to get enough workers to show up through the service entrance. Schools have issues. Government has issues (understatement). Is there anyone besides long-term recluses who don’t have issues? And hopefully these are all temporary.

A sign of change (need to verify): three Maseratis drag racing up a two lane road. (So much for the days of ‘kids’ in used American muscle cars.)

A sign of normalcy: Buster the elk is back or at least came back out of hiding.

A sign of randomness: a black bear wandering the south end, probably after swimming to Whidbey.

A sign of change: Restaurants with limited hours limit the hours even more to accommodate private parties, resulting in fewer dining choices for everyone else.

A welcome return: Wayward orcas found their way home.

A new arrival: a flock of pelicans (California transplants?)

This blog is an islander’s view of island life. In any city or town, the main news can be the things the residents pull together from anecdotes collected from friends. That isn’t journalistic, and definitely benefits from fact-checking, but particularly on an island and in small towns, the casual conversations can provide a more comprehensive picture than whatever can fit the real restrictions of a certain number of column inches due by a non-negotiable deadline. Different pockets of people, different neighborhoods, different demographics will uncover different threads and topics. They may not be granted headlines or Official Press Releases, but some collection of end-of-season topics might give a better sense of what’s really going on. Get out there and listen if you really want to know. And while you’re out there listening, there’s some good music coming up soon. Just make sure to wear a mask, and of course, get vaccinated.

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