Hot time in downtown Vancouver

3 events feed on each other, help feed the hungry

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoYohn Baldwin plays guitar with High Point on Saturday afternoon at Esther Short Park.

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If you played your cards just right in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, you could cruise the "Gut" in your vintage Mustang with a pint of local Marionberries in the passenger seat, before polishing off some chili, shave ice and corn dogs, and -- if your indigestion hadn't kicked in yet -- shake it to local band Nu Wave Machine at dusk.

The convergence of three major events -- Fire in the Park, Cruisin' the Gut, and the Vancouver Farmers Market -- made downtown a humming hive of activity as families and residents drifted from one destination to the next. As a result, organizers at each said crowds were bigger than ever before.

That, in turn, was excellent news for Vancouver's nonprofit Share, which serves the hungry and homeless, and is the recipient of the proceeds from both Fire in the Park and Cruisin' the Gut.

Selling $1 tickets for samples in the chili cook-off at Fire in the Park at Esther Short Park, Share Executive Director Diane McWithy said that the day is the third-largest fundraiser for her agency. Fire in the Park, now in its third year, was certainly the largest she'd ever seen it. She thanked the Vancouver Firefighters Union for organizing the day, which is free, except for the chili cook-off and other food purchases.

"We serve about 10,000 people a year -- without events like this, we wouldn't be able to support people and run the programs that we do," McWithy said, adding that in the summertime, donations drop off, so the events provide a needed cash infusion.

While Share may be the real winner Saturday, Goldie Bibens also took home a trophy. Her secret family recipe -- "Just the love I put into it, and smoked beef brisket … wait, should I give you all that? I don't know if I want to give you all that!" she said, laughing -- took top honors in her first year at the charity chili cook-off at Fire in the Park.

Bibens, who owns Goldie's BBQ Restaurant & Catering at 15640 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., donated more than 13 gallons of the stuff. By 3:30 p.m., she was totally sold out of samples -- an empty pot and a trophy were all

that was left. The chili isn't on her menu at the restaurant. But it will be soon, she said.

Volunteers with the farmers market said that shoppers were more bountiful than usual. Several food vendors were still serving hungry folks nearly an hour after the market's 3 p.m. close time.

The day was also a winner for Christine Seaunier and her son Drake, 10.

While Drake said he was more into planes than fire trucks, he did say that he was loving the weather (a sunny and breezy 79 degrees in late afternoon), and "just walking around and relaxing in the shade."

The family-friendly frugality appealed to his mom: "I like seeing all the dogs and families," Christine Seaunier said. "This is one of the few things where people can get together that doesn't cost you any money."

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.