By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
You’ll know you’ve reached the little town of Leavenworth, Washington, even before you see the signs. First you’ll spot the rows of gingerbread-style buildings standing shoulder to shoulder, and hear the distant sounds of oompah bands. The aromas of sauerkraut and sausage will whet your appetite. It is a village that would fit right in among the small towns along Germany’s border with Austria. Visitors enjoy a taste of Bavaria without leaving the United States. Leavenworth is located 120 miles east of Seattle, in a valley surrounded by the Cascade Mountains.
Leavenworth’s appearance varies with the seasons. In the spring and summer it is lush with beautiful flowers that fill gardens, window boxes, hanging baskets, and planters. When autumn arrives, those same doorways, windows, and balconies are dressed in leaves of red, orange, and gold. Winter brings snow, of course, turning the village into a cozy imitation of a genuine Alpine village.
The population of Leavenworth is approximately 2,400, but visitors typically outnumber the residents throughout the year. And since tourist-related business makes up more than 70 percent of the economy, the locals don’t complain.
So many festivals and events are held in Leavenworth that you can expect to find one nearly every month of the year. To learn more about Leavenworth, visit www.leavenworth.org or call (509) 548-5807 for a free Leavenworth Visitors Guide.
Following is a sampling of the interesting events, activities, and attractions in town.
Yes, dancing around the maypole is part of this festival, held the third weekend of May, but so are music, art items for sale, and a variety of foods. Don’t get so caught up in the festivities that you forget to find a spot with a good view of Main Street to watch the procession of Bavarian wagons and Bernese Mountain dogs.
2. International Accordion Celebration
Move over, Lawrence Welk. Every June, accordionists gather from around the world to join the parade and other festivities. If you don’t already love the sound of the squeeze-box, you will by the end of this four-day event.
This event, which takes place the first weekend after Thanksgiving, is modeled after the great open-air Christmas markets of Germany. Shop “˜til you drop “” or until your money runs out.
4. Christmas Lighting Festival
Opening festivities for the holiday season take place on the first Saturday in December, starting with the noon arrival of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and Santa Claus. Visitors will enjoy live music and entertainment all afternoon and into the evening. The trees in Front Street Park remain unlit through the day. At sunset, visitors gather at the gazebo to sing Christmas songs and await the lighting, when the trees and buildings in the village burst into color. The same ceremonies take place on the second and third Saturdays in December.
5. Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum
Located at 735 Front Street, this is the only all-nutcracker museum in the United States. The 4,000-piece collection includes nutcrackers from the 15th century to the present. It’s open from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from May through October, and only on weekends from November through April. A small admission fee is charged.
6. Chelan County Historical Society, Cashmere, Washington
This three-acre facility, just a few miles from Leavenworth, includes 20 original pioneer structures. The museum building displays highlight natural history, Native American and pioneer history, and countless artifacts from the region.
7. The Community Coffeehouse
Don’t be confused by the name of this establishment, located at the Chumstick Grange Hall, 621 Front Street. The only time you can get coffee here is during the live music performances held every Friday night beginning at 7:30. A variety of Northwest musicians bring folk, jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, classical, international, blues, and rock music to the stage throughout the year. You’re welcome to sing along on a song or two. Admission is free, but organizers collect donations for the musicians and refreshments, which include coffee, tea, cider, and cookies.
8. Leavenworth Summer Theater
“The hills are alive with the sound of music,” and who can resist a great evening of outdoor theater in a mountain setting? The Leavenworth Summer Theater presents several musicals “live, outdoors, and under the stars.” The 2003 summer schedule includes The Sound of Music at Ski Hill Amphitheater, and Annie Get Your Gun and Oliver at Hatchery Park. During the fall and winter seasons, two shows are presented indoors at the beautiful Sleeping Lady Chapel Theatre.
9. Marlin Handbell Ringers
Don’t miss this group of Leavenworth residents who bring handbell music to the Bavarian village. These players aren’t amateurs “” the group has made two professional recordings and performs several times each year.
10. Village Art in the Park
Renowned professional and amateur artists exhibit their work on the weekends, beginning with the Maifest celebration and continuing into fall. Sales commissions are used to fund an art scholarship and to pay for an art teacher at local elementary schools.
11. Icicle Creek Music Center
Listen up, music lovers. This year’s schedule of concerts will feature Icicle Creek’s resident musicians and showcase guest artists. Concerts are free, but donations to support student scholarships are encouraged. This year’s offerings include symphony and chamber music concerts throughout the spring and summer. The Canyon Wren Recital Hall seats only 100 people, so reservations are required to guarantee seating.
Now for a little shopping, and there are plenty of opportunities to find interesting gifts and keepsakes in Leavenworth. Here are two we found particularly intriguing:
12. The Cuckoo Clock
This merchant, located at 725 Front Street, offers a large collection of interesting cuckoo clocks, including fine, hand-carved Bavarian clocks; stately grandfather clocks; and beautiful wall, mantle, and novelty clocks. Just imagine the sound created by all of those clocks chiming on the hour.
13. Die Musik Box
You’ll find music boxes from around the world (not just Germany and Switzerland), featuring such companies as Reuge, Porter, and Melody In Motion, at this interesting shop, located at 933 Front St. You’ll also see carousels, boxes made from fine Italian inlaid wood, and many others.