Undaunted by blustery winds and the threat of rain Monday afternoon, dozens of well-wishers attended the grand opening of the Astoria Bicentennial Celebration committee's new headquarters
The official address on the 12th Street Dock is No. 1 12th St., Astoria.
Fifty feet long and 10 feet wide, with a wall of windows looking out at the Columbia River, the office will be a hub of activity as Astoria's 200th birthday approaches in 2011.
Use of the space was donated by owner Don Vallaster of Portland, at the suggestion of Jennifer Holen, co-owner of Baked Alaska restaurant, which leases much of the rest of the building's first floor and provided refreshments for Monday's event. The Bicentennial group's only expense for the office space will be paying the utility bill. The fresh new paint job is the work of Zachary Prichard, a student at Astoria High School, who did the work as part of his senior project.
City Council members attending the kickoff event included Arline LaMear and Blair Henningsgaard, who were pleased to see so many people there. "It's a good turnout for something that's two years away," Henningsgaard said, "and the store already has a lot of nice merchandise."
The highlight of the event was the 4 p.m. ribbon cutting. It was accomplished with a giant scissors wielded by Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen.
"Astoria truly is a special place and it is a historic city for more than just Clatsop County and Oregon, but really for the Western United States, so hopefully we're going to have a lot of fun, but also there's a lot of history we can teach everyone," Van Dusen said.
"This is a great kickoff and we're just getting started."
Astoria is the oldest U.S. settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. The theme of the Bicentennial is "An Adventure in History."
After the ribbon cutting, Bank of Astoria President Cheri Folk presented a giant cardboard check for $15,000 to the Astoria Bicentennial Celebration committee, which she said was a first installment on the bank's pledge. "We're just really thrilled to support your opening event as one of your major sponsors," Folk said to great applause and thanks from Mac Burns, director of the Clatsop County Historical Society, and Bicentennial coordinator Paulette McCoy.
"Huge thank-yous need to be said to a whole bunch of people," Burns said. Topping his list was former Astoria Mayor Edith Henningsgaard Miller, honorary chairwoman of the Bicentennial committee, who made a brief appearance. Burns also acknowledged Bicentennial co-chairs Vern Fowler and Jean Harrison and thanked major donors including the Bank of Astoria, the Snow Family Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, the city of Astoria and several businesses.
Van Dusen recognized several people in attendance, including Bruce Berney, Astoria's former longtime librarian. Civic leader and philanthropist Michael Foster was also there. "It's great that we're getting started," Foster said.
Burns said there has been a huge outpouring of community support for the Bicentennial. "Every group we talked to has been excited. They want to figure out, 'Well, how can we help?'" he said.
Before the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new headquarters, people browsed through Bicentennial items for sale, bought tickets for a commemorative coin that was raffled off and gathered around a television to watch a short video of Astoria's historical highlights and present attractions. The star was Mayor Van Dusen, with John Goodenberger and LaRee Johnson in supporting roles as Capt. and Mrs. George Flavel.
Introducing himself as a fifth-generation Astorian, Van Dusen posed with the Riverfront Trolley, at the Astoria Column, the Cannery Hotel and other attractions including a poster of 'The Goonies' movie. Also featured were Fort Clatsop, the Heritage Museum and the Astoria Bridge. The video, which is not in its final form, is a four-minute "sizzle piece" or teaser for a 12-minute history of Astoria on DVD that will be distributed to travel writers and others to generate publicity for Bicentennial events.
It evoked a lot of good-natured teasing aimed at the mayor. "Hollywood wants him," Burns joked, calling Van Dusen's acting "first-rate." "He's definitely going to end up in Hollywood at some point. The camera loves him."