You Can Take The Girl Out Of The Small Town, But You Can’t Take The Small Town Out Of The Girl



My hometown

Photo Courtesy Liem Bahneman

i'm so snohomish


A trend has been making its way around Facebook this week. I have seen several posts saying things like, “I’m so L.A.,” “I’m so Seattle,” and “I’m so Chicago” followed by something to indicate how strong their ties are to their hometown.

It’s only a matter of time before other towns catch on, so let me be the first to start one about my hometown.

I’m so Snohomish that…

*I’ve gotten swimmer’s itch in Blackman’s Lake

*Was in a car crash at Devil’s Elbow

*Watched movies on the “non-porn” weekends at the Snohomish theater.

*Tried to cross the Ebey Slough with my best friend on bikes

*Rafted the Pilchuck

*Watched a girl lose her rat tail in a cat fight

*Waved at Crazy Ray as he compulsively and incessantly ran around town

*Watched Patrick’s paint shack burn to the ground

*For all of the 1980’s, there wasn’t a single year that either one of my sisters or I wasn’t a student at Snohomish High School

*Rode in the back of a pick-up in the Serpentine Parade (The fire trucks were reserved for the football players)

*Ate burgers at the original HUB

*Watched the river rise from the Silver King

*Lived down the hill from the mayor, who was also my sister’s history teacher

*Watched the filming of “Twin Peaks” and “Bustin’ Loose” (And even caught a glimpse of Richard Pryor from the Cabbage Patch)

*Attended more bonfires than I can count

*Got yelled at by the owners of Weeds Variety

* For years I considered crossing the trestle into Everett “going into the city”

*Bought watermelon Bubblicious at the snack bar while watching Curt Marsh, Tom Cable and Rick Fenney dominate all of Wesco under Friday night lights

And, finally,

* I can still remember 2/3 of BOTH cheerleading routines for the Panther’s fight song, “Hail to Snohomish High.”


This past weekend I attended Snohomish’s annual festival, Kla Ha Ya Days. (In case you were unaware, Snohomish is named after the indigenous tribe who made this valley their home for thousands of years, and Kla Ha Ya means “welcome.”)

The carnival started Wednesday evening, but most of the activities were on Saturday, starting with the parade in the morning. The official opening of Seattle’s Seafair, the Kla Ha Ya Days parade is actually the largest in the Pacific Northwest, with 107 entries in 2013. Not bad for a parade route that stretches all of 7 blocks from Stewarts on first street(a biker bar) down to what used to be Chuck’s Seafood Grotto, but was recently taken over by Chuck’s son and renamed “Andy’s.”

10565054_10152549629039089_7688474620289583663_nWaiting for the parade.




I don’t know what to say about this one


A perennial favorite- The dancing horses sponsored by the local Mexican restaurant


Another favorite- the Snohomish Sauerkraut band, formerly Schwartzmiller’s Sauerkraut band. I went to school with three Schwartzmillers. I can’t even begin to imagine how fun their band practice is.

In years past, my kids have done the ice cream eating contest,


And every year they do the frog jumping contest. Tad the frog is the official mascot of Kla Ha Ya Days.


2012. I always felt this photo deserved a caption, I just never figured out what it should be.



Why yes, that does say “Weenie Wagon” in the background. Makes you wonder what happens to all the losing frogs…

Basically, you get a frog and put it in the center of the ring. Using a feather to tickle and a spray bottle to squirt the frog in the rear, the goal is to get the most distance out of three hops. Whoever can get their frog to jump the farthest in any direction wins.

This year, as Parker awaited his turn, I noticed a couple teenagers showing a man what they had in a bucket.

“Did you bring your own frog?” I asked.

The man, I assume their grandfather, answered, “They’ve had a lot of success bringing their own frogs. ”

I didn’t ask what “a lot of success” means.

I also hadn’t known bringing your own frog was an option.  I briefly considered a Rocky- style training camp for Kla Ha Ya Days frogs, but then dismissed that idea as somewhat ridiculous. Of course, many genius ideas sound ridiculous at first hearing.

Some of the other annual competitions of the festival are cherry-pit spitting, watermelon seed spitting, bed races, pie eating and baby races.

I was somewhat disappointed that the fire hose tug of war was a no-show this year. Typically, they park two fire trucks at each end and there is a high wire with a ball in the middle. Dueling fire hoses, operated by one of my favorite things in the world, firemen, shoot water at the ball and attempt to get it past the line on the opponents side of the wire.

They did have the cheerleader dunk booth, though. I walked over to my husband and the old man sitting next to him on the bench and said, “you do realize these are teenage girls and you sitting here watching is a little weird, right?”

After talking with the old man, who was wearing a Korean war veteran’s hat and explained he had come down alone on his boat from Alaska, I figured if it gave him a little thrill, who was I to judge. Shudder.

One of my favorite parts of Kla Ha Ya Days, though, has to be the hot air balloon float.


Snohomish is the kind of place that people think only exists on TV.

But it’s real.

Quirky characters, tractors driving down 1st street, guys in pick-up trucks, generations of families deeply rooted in the town’s history; a place where you can’t go much of anywhere without running into people you know. Growing up, the whole town would show up to watch a high school football game, whether they had a student there or not. On snowy days, it seemed like the whole town showed up to go sledding on the hill by my parents’ house.

I’ve been spending a lot more time in town this summer, due to Nathan’s tennis camp at the high school and Zoe’s new soccer club.

Driving into town from my house, I come down the hill to sprawling fields of corn, the valley dotted with barns and bales of hay. Small planes fly into the tiny airport, often having just dropped off a half-dozen parachuters, now floating to the ground. 1st street is lined with restaurants that  overlook the river and quaint boutiques, not to mention the antique stores that once had Snohomish named “the antique capital of the Northwest.”

Snohomish boasts a few celebrities as well. Author Kristin Hannah is from Snohomish. Former Oakland Raiders and now Seattle Seahawks assistant coach Tom Cable is from Snohomish. We’ve had a couple other NFL stars come from here- farm boys are no joke. NBA player Jon Brockman hails from this small town, the son of my older sister’s DECA teacher.  Even John Legend’s wife Supermodel Chrissy Teigen was a Snohomish High School cheerleader, just a mere (gulp) 14 years after I was.


My parents still live in town, in a house built in 1912. My mother has worked in the school district for nearly 35 years, and can tell you almost everything you would ever want to know about the town and the people. If I hear something on the grapevine, she’s the first person I call to verify. She’s had multiple generations come through her school, and seems to remember not only each child she’s met, but also the backstory on the entire family.

Often when I’m out with her, a child will run up and give her a hug out of nowhere. I will say, “Who was that?” and the answer will be something like, “Oh, that’s Gretta. She’s in 5th grade now. Her mom is Lisa Johnson, you know, Angela’s cousin. I drew her mother’s portrait in the first grade. She’s had a rough time of it, Lisa, her brother’s wife died two years ago from breast cancer, and then her mother was just diagnosed. Her mom owns the hair salon over on cedar…”

The downside to having a mother who knows everyone in town? There would be days I’d get home from school and she would already know what I had done to get into trouble. (not a common occurrence, I assure you.)

While progress hasn’t completely bypassed the town, and things have definitely changed, much of what was, still is.

A lot of my friends still live nearby.  Some never left, some left and came back to raise their families. They go to the weekly farmer’s market, they cheer as their kids play sports at our old (but newly remodeled) high school, they sometimes meet at Fred’s for a beer, or at Piccadilly for some karaoke.

I used to believe that getting out of that town was some sort of a victory. I went off to college, and never really came back. We lived out of state for 10 years, and I marveled when I would come home to visit and run into old friends  who had married their high school sweetheart and settled down in the area.

Now that I’m older, and I’ve lived a few places, I see the beauty of my hometown in a way I never did before. It’s a special place and I’m lucky to have come from there. I am who I am because of where I’ve come from, and all those years of trying to distance myself from it have resulted in an inevitable longing to be a part of it again.

They say you can’t go home again, but I’ve found that nothing could be further from the truth.












5 thoughts on “You Can Take The Girl Out Of The Small Town, But You Can’t Take The Small Town Out Of The Girl”

  1. Lake Stevens and the Snohomish river freezing are very rare! I vaguely remember the edges of Lake Stevens freezing. There are stories of it freezing enough to stand on it a ways out from the shore from the 60’s and 70’s I think?? (Not sure on the dates) I’m from Lake but now live in Snoho. Both great towns! When Katie referred to watching the cool things happening in the river at The Silver King I can’t help but think about all the dead bodies that have been found in it!

  2. All very true. I just move back to Snohomish after living in Lake Stevens for about 18 yrs. I think one of my coolest memories is whe the Snohomish river froze almost solid don’t remember the year but I know I was in elementary school ( Central Elemtary) . I remember standing on the side walk by the Silver King cafe just looking at it for hours. It was incredible when it started to break up. The huge chunks were a couple feet thick and being pushed up on top each other.

    1. We hadn’t lived in WA very long and didn’t understand that it wasn’t a common occurrence. I remember watching ducks and geese sliding in to land on both Blackmon’s and Lake Stevens. Thought that would happen every winter too. Quite extraordinary, as it turns out!

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