Vancouver welcomes delegates, honors designer

SethAaron Henderson gets key to city at GOP-sponsored Party in the Park

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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The key to the city doesn’t actually open anything, but Vancouver’s most recent recipient, “Project Runway” winner SethAaron Henderson, joked “I’m going to try, anyway.”

Mayor Tim Leavitt handed over a shiny, oversized cardboard key before presenting Henderson a plaque featuring a smaller bronze version on Friday in Esther Short Park, part of a day-long public celebration sponsored by the state Republican convention.

Henderson, who was crowned the Season 7 winner of the reality fashion design competition show in April, has been showered with attention since his win. He’s got a spread in this month’s “Marie Claire” magazine and has been interviewed by countless national publications. Last week, he was the Grand Marshal of Portland’s Rose Festival Starlight Parade.

But despite the newfound success his win brings, Henderson took the opportunity Friday to tell the several dozen folks gathered in the park to say he’s not going anywhere — in fact, he’s in the market for a new house in Vancouver.

“Some media and press are saying that as soon as we win, we’re peeling out. We’re staying,” said Henderson, 38, who lives in the city with his wife and two children. “Our family’s here, and the city’s a great city.”

Leavitt said Henderson deserved the award for his “inspiring Vancouver residents to take risks and never give up on themselves.”

Henderson reciprocated the love, giving the mayor a silk red-white-and-blue tie that had his signature touches of both studs and plaid. Leavitt said he plans to wear it in a mayoral patriotic tie competition celebrating Flag Day at the Fort Vancouver National Trust Monday.

The key presentation kicked off “Party in the Park,” a day sponsored by the state Republicans and conservative talk radio station KPAM.

KPAM host Victoria Taft (slogan: “Standing up for what’s right”) broadcast live from the event for three hours, bringing on various Republican party figures for commentary. Senate candidates Paul Akers and Dino Rossi both took to the park’s central stage to speak about their issues and answer questions.

Delegates from the nearby convention, held at the downtown Hilton Vancouver Washington, wandered across the street to catch the action. Wearing candidate buttons and T-shirts that read “Republican Women are the Life of the Party!” they enjoyed music by local band Five Guys Named Moe and sipped drinks in the beer garden.

The celebration was set to go until 10 p.m., when the band was to finish its second set.

Convention Coordinator Phil Bevins said the day was to thank Vancouver for being a great host city.

“The people of Vancouver, regardless of political affiliation or beliefs, have been incredibly welcoming,” Bevins said. “We cannot say or do enough to thank the people for the way we’ve been welcomed.”

Bill Gale of Vancouver set up a lounge chair and munched on kettle corn from the nearby Friday Night Market. He said he appreciated that the state convention, where a guest pass costs $125 at the door, brought some of the action to residents for free.

“It gives us a feel of what’s going on,” said Gale, who supports Rossi and came to hear the Senate contenders speak. “It brings people closer to the views, helps them understand what’s going on. It’s nice to not have to get everything out of Seattle.”

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.