Harvest Days shows Battle Ground as a family-size town

People say the city's just the right kind of community

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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BATTLE GROUND -- Ask locals what they love about their city and the answers are remarkably similar.

"The people, so wonderfully friendly and supportive," said April Henkel, 41, as she took in vendor booths at Sunday's final day of Harvest Days.

"It's a nice small town," she said, adding, "I'm OK with the growth."

"Quiet and peaceful," said her husband, Norm Henkel, 38.

Nearby on duty, Firefighter Mitch Marling, 24, with Clark County Fire & Rescue offered, "I like it because it feels like a community. Very friendly. Family-friendly. Vancouver doesn't seem very personal."

Checking out the activities in the fun center, Katie Arnberg, 25, said that after seven years in Minnesota, "We moved back because we love it here."

Last year, she and husband Ted, 27, bought a house in Falcon One Estates for their family, which includes Trace, 16 months, and Tristin, 5.

Ted said he's worked all over the country as a millwright and Battle Ground is the place to be.

"It feels safe for my children to go out and play," he said.

"This is a great place to raise a family," Katie added.

That family feeling is just what Michael Harden wants the community to have in Harvest Days. He is chair-elect of the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of the celebration.

"I really think the Chamber found a sense of direction for this community event," Harden said on Sunday. "I wouldn't say we hit the nail on the head 100 percent but we did narrow the scope of Harvest Days."

That scope, he said, is to produce a "good event that portrays the community as a whole."

Harden and his son, Mikalae, own Battle Ground Printing on Main Street.

Harden said he was happy with Harvest Days and said about 2,000 people turned out for a Friday night cruise-in and a similar number for Saturday's parade on Main Street.

Other activities at the Community Center and Fairgrounds Park included a beer and wine garden, runs, a book sale, an art show, an antiques road show, bingo, vendors and the fun center.

City Councilman Adrian Cortes said Sunday that the city wants to team up with the chamber to promote Battle Ground.

"There are people who don't like the growth but there are people who enjoy it," Cortes said. "We can't put walls around the city … but we need to maintain that small-town feel."

"I run into people I graduated (from Prairie High School) with," Cortes said. "It's like being involved in one big family."

The family is getting bigger. Cortes said he graduated high school in 1994 and Battle Ground had about 4,700 residents. Today, the city has almost 18,000. But Cortes said service clubs, nonprofit work, events and easy access to city councilors help keep the small-town feel.

He added a key question is: "How do we build upon successful events like Harvest Days to encourage tourism?"

Harden said the city is doing a good job of partnering with the chamber.

"I think with the very past mayor and the very current mayor, I see that happening. There's been a real effort by the city to reach out and work with the chamber and business community as a whole," Harden said.

What does he like about Battle Ground?

"A real sense of community," Harden said.

What does that mean?

"Probably as close to Mayberry RFD as possible."