ILWACO, Wash. - Friends and families stroll, popping into stores and restaurants, listening to guitarists and singers, checking out the classic cars parked on the grass. On this mild summer evening, apparently the Ilwaco Harbor Village is the place to be.

It's the second Thursday of August, and restaurants and shops have joined the art galleries in opening their doors, offering refreshments and activities and exhibits for the Art Walk at the Port of Ilwaco. It's a chance for tourists and locals alike to see what the marina has to offer, the organizers say.

"The dockside walkway's just an ideal place for people to stroll and visit a restaurant and see some beautiful art," said Randy Powell, co-owner of the Shoalwater Cove Gallery with his wife, Marie. "It's a good reason for people to come out on a night when there's decent weather."

The event also is a way of letting people know what the port has to offer, since many don't even know that galleries occupy that spot.

"We've brought a lot of new people down here doing this," Powell said. And often, visitors see things they like and come back again later.

This whimsical piece by Don Nisbett, titled 'Clam Chowder,' is on display at the Crew House Gallery.Putting on an art walk is also a great excuse to assemble a new art show, said Bruce Peterson, co-owner of the Wade Gallery with his wife, Wendi. The Wade, Shoalwater and Crew House Gallery, owned by Don Nisbett, take turns hosting the events.

The first art walk of this summer had a pirate theme, in honor of the tall ships that came in May and June. Peterson had put together a show consisting of photos of the ships' visit, some of which were still on display in August.

Peterson, who previously specialized in black-and-white photos, has done a complete turnaround; his pictures are now infused with color. For the prints, be they of ships or fall leaves or Italian bridges or the New York City skyline Sept. 10, 2001, he colorizes the images on the computer, then prints it in a way that dyes the image on watercolor paper.

Al Carson serenades people strolling at the Ilwaco Harbor Village with 'Corrina, Corrina.'"I really like saturated colors," Peterson said. "I try and exaggerate what it is that attracted me to the image in the first place."

The process allows him to get those saturated colors, the watercolor paper gives the pieces a soft, painterly look, and because the paper is dyed, the print will stay vibrant for a long time.

As he explains all this during August's Art Walk, a couple wanders over admiring some multicolored amber jewelry.

"I remember you from last year," Peterson greets them.

Elsewhere, artist Diane Jackson is pouring wine and offering snacks to folks in the Shoalwater Gallery. Some of her glass work is on display at the store, and she said that she enjoys these evenings because she gets to meet the folks looking at her work.

"People are looking at the glass and say, 'Oh, it's so pretty,'" she said. "I can tell them a story about what was in my mind when I created it."

The Art Walk is now in its third year, and keeps getting better, Peterson said. The idea for it started when he and his wife opened the gallery around that time, and started talking with the other galleries along the marina and the Harbor Village merchants association.

"It's the best group of volunteers I've ever seen," Peterson said. "Everyone seems enthusiastic and excited."

Restaurants and other stores get involved with the event, offering special appetizers or discounts, hosting book signings or artist demonstrations or musicians singing the blues.

"There's a little bit of art everywhere," Peterson said.

But the possibility of taking some of that art home is also a really big draw, he added. The merchants donate items for a gift basket that is raffled off to people who collect stamps from all the participating shops on an entry form. Galleries donate $50 to $150 worth of art and restaurants and shops provide gift certificates and other goodies.

"It ends up being a heck of a basket," Peterson said. So much so that last year they had to split it up into first, second and third place prizes.

The second Thursdays become a social occasion as well.

"I just like the atmosphere," said Shirley Wright of Ilwaco, who was wandering by the marina with two friends during August's event. "I just love to watch people; it's a nice pleasant walk."

"It's nice to see that the Port of Ilwaco is getting some recognition," said her friend Theresa Potter of Seaview, Wash. "It's nice that people can enjoy it."

The third and final Art Walk of the summer is 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, at the port. The theme for that evening, a little bit ahead of time, will be "Octoberfest."

"Because it's going to be Octoberfest, we're going to be pouring beer," said Powell, who is hosting the event that evening. In preparation, he's scouring the Long Beach Peninsula for lederhosen and a felt hat with a feather, as well as Munich-style beer signs. And while he has banjo and guitar music lined up for entertainment, he admits, "I wish we had a yodeler."

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