Monthly Archives: January 2010

Hay There, Olalla Bluegrass Festival Happening After All

Additional volunteers are needed for set-up and other tasks.
By Chris Henry
In November, it seemed the popular Olalla Bluegrass Festival would be silenced for 2010. Exhaustion on the part of the core group that had kept it going for nearly two decades was the cause.
Since then, new folks have stepped forward to fill the void, and the festival is back on the calendar, set for Aug. 21.
The event, which began in 1991, draws hundreds each year to the South Kitsap Southern Little League field for a day of bluegrass music, vendors and berry pie eating. Planning begins eight months in advance.
Marty Kellogg, who wore many hats as festival director for a number of years, announced this fall he was stepping down. The new director, according to Secretary George Willock, is Larry Davis. Michael Reardon is second-in command. Marcia Doran is treasurer. Other key positions — including Willock’s — have been filled as well.
Willock, a Southworth resident, has been a regular festival attendee for years. He has helped with small tasks, but felt moved to do more.
“I’m happy that it’s going to happen,” said Willock, “It’s just a quality event. I really enjoy the bands. I enjoy the atmosphere. It’s small enough, it’s kind of warm and friendly. It has the feel of a party. I like the fact that it attracts a wide variety of people, rich people, poor people, families, whatever.”
Kellogg and festival founder Charlee Glock-Johnson will remain involved, Willock said, but the committee’s new goal will be to minimize burn-out by distributing the labor.
To recruit new volunteers, Glock-Jackson wrote job descriptions of each task involved in putting on the festival. The Web site has been updated and now includes an online volunteer registration form. As of the central committee’s most recent meeting, the former handful of weary volunteers had swelled to a group 18-strong, and most of the tasks, large and small, had been spoken for.
The committee still is lacking volunteers for three important positions: volunteer coordinator, vendor coordinator and program editor.
Proceeds from the Olalla Bluegrass Festival support upkeep of the Olalla Community Club. The festival committee also donates to local organizations, such as scout groups, school groups and other South Kitsap community needs.
To find out more about the festival or to volunteer, log on to

Minus BKAT, PO Has Glitch in Video Meeting Coverage

Tuesday’s meeting of the Port Orchard City Council is the first since the council voted in December to do away with its BKAT broadcasts and to post videos of the meetings on the city’s Web site instead. Unfortunately, there was a glitch, and no audio of the meeting came through.

Mayor Lary Coppola has accepted responsibility and explains in a letter below where things went awry. Instead of a video, draft minutes of the meeting have been posted on the Web site. Here is a copy your viewing pleasure.

Port Orchard City Council Meeting, Jan. 12, 2010, draft minutes: POCC_011210

The city had a contract with BKAT since 2006, but decided to ditch cable in part to save money, in part to try and reach a wider audience and offer a more convenient form of access. Coppola and council members who favored the switch said most people now have Internet service adequate to view meetings on the city’s Web site. Viewing online would allow people to skip through the the parts of the meeting in which they were most interested and to view meetings at whatever time they choose. The possibility of having both forms of broadcast is not off the table, and the council may resurrect discussion of BKAT and how to fund it. Port Orchard has been paying a reduced rate and BKAT was hoping to bring the city’s fees in line for comparable service.

Here’s the mayor’s letter sent to the Port Orchard Independent and forwarded to me by Councilman Fred Chang.

“From: Lary Coppola
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 4:18 PM
To: Charlie Bermant
Cc: Patricia J. Kirkpatrick
Subject: RE: BKAT

First, I want to apologize to the citizens of our City for the problem, and accept full responsibility for it. A draft copy of the meeting minutes will be posted on the City’s Web site, along with the video.

BKAT had a responsibility to provide training for our staff as part of its contract, and we had done a run through on December 22, prior to BKAT removing its equipment to make sure there were no glitches and everything worked correctly. It was after that, when BKAT removed its equipment, and hooked up ours as was agreed. apparently an audio cable was left unplugged. It wasn’t immediately obvious that this had occurred, and since the run through went perfectly, we assumed everything was ready to go – just as BKAT assured us it was.

We don’t believe this was an intentional act, and if you’ve seen the amount of wiring involved in the broadcast setup, you can see how easily something like this could happen. Rest assured that everyone involved in this project knows for a fact it won’t happen again.

Lary Coppola, Mayor
City of Port Orchard
216 Prospect Street
Port Orchard, WA 98366
(360) 876-7025 – Direct Line”

Molly Hightower: How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?

On Tuesday, Haiti suffered a magnitude-7 earthquake that has spread devastation to the already impoverished country. As of Wednesday, Port Orchard residents Mike and Mary Hightower were anxiously awaiting word from their daughter Molly, who was working with disabled orphans in a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

I checked in on Molly’s blog to find out a little more about this young woman and what motivated her to spend a year working in such challenging circumstances. I did not find a saint. Just an upbeat 22-year-old with a taste for Starbuck’s and Taco Bell, a love of children and a deep well of compassion.

Molly’s blog is aptly enough named “525,600 Minutes” from the lyrics of the song “Seasons of Love.

Molly and Child
Molly and Child

Another Port Orchard woman, Rebekah Miner, was also in Haiti, working as a nurse. Thankfully she escaped unscathed. Read her story at this link.

Molly Hightower, in her blog, describes herself as “A 22 year old from Port Orchard, WA, who just graduated from the University of Portland and is avoiding getting a job. I majored in Psychology, Sociology and French, and plan to get my masters in special ed, counseling or education.”

She arrived in Haiti in June, 2009 for a year of work with NPFS, Nos Petites Freres et Soeurs (Our little Brothers and Sisters in French-speaking Haiti).

Here are some excerpts from the blog that give a glimpse into Molly’s day-to-day life in Haiti.

Sept. 27
“Here are some pictures of my abandoned babies at the hospital. I have 4 currently, and I take them to Saint Germaine for physical therapy 2 to 4 times a week depending on how healthy they are. (Here she posts several photos of adorable-looking children like Jolene, below, showing she is also a capable photographer.)


“Norma has shown me how to massage them, how best to help Jolene walk and little stretching exercises to do in the pool. I never thought I’d be doing any sort of physical therapy here, but I enjoy it!

– My first little girl is Jolene, whose been with me since the beginning and IS STARTING TO WALK! I took a video of her walking in her crib on the soft service and posted it on youtube:”

Oct. 17
“Going to the hospital has become so difficult, because I have to search for the weaker babies every time I go. They are constantly moved from recovery to urgent care to special needs, and without a parents to sit with them when they are in the sick room, I have become that person. I sit with the other Haitian mothers for as long as I can holding whichever baby is sick, but this leaves less time for therapy with the healthier kids.”

Nov. 16: Molly talks about coping with circumstances most would find depressing or hopeless.
“Of course, there’s always sadness to focus on if you choose to. You’ll look down and see the burns someone put on Yvonne’s legs, maybe in an attempt to burn the seizures she often has out of her. Clotaire will get to excited from singing to us and have an epileptic fit. And then Watner, who was found burning in a pile of garbage as an infant, wanders over from the kindergarten looking for a treat. He only has half his fingers and scalp.

But then, Fabien comes in and trips all over herself to run and give you a hug, and Inderra makes eye contact with you from across the room and starts to laugh uncontrollably. You gotta focus on the good.”

Of the older children, one of Molly’s favorites is TiBeth (“ti” as in petite for small), a girl with Down Syndrome who is frightened to get off the school bus and usually throws a fit. Molly has to coax her off with her sunglasses.

Through it all, Molly gets by on her ability to see things with a sense of humor. This, also posted on Nov. 16:
“I left Kay Retreat at 9:30, and before I even made it to the office at 10:00 I had been knocked down by a very excited special needs girl giving me a hug, helped an 8 year old out of the wet cement she stepped in, and proofread a speech someone wanted to give in English. It was a normal day!”

In the same post, she describes Damien, one of the children lucky enough to be adopted.
“Damian Frechette (after St. Damien hospital, where he was abandoned, and Father Rick, who gives his last name to the abandoned children) is 2 years old and the cutest kid you could imagine. … He’s running around everywhere and talking up a storm (in creole, of course) like a normal 2 year old. He wanted to throw pillows and eat chocolate chips and stare at all the cars out the window all night, so we let him, because volunteers are meant to spoil the children from the hospital!”

Dec. 3: Another horrific day.
The Universal Day for the Handicapped
“The volunteers started off at mass at the hospital, with Father Rick back in town. After that, we went to bless the babies that died in the hospital the night before, which I’ve never done before. It was devastating to see them be unwrapped, cleaned, blessed and rewrapped to be buried. 2 children died last night, and 3 more the night before so there were several bodies on the tables. The hospital, on average, loses 2 or 3 children a day.”

Dec. 24 and 25, Christmas in Haiti
Except for the tropical weather, Christmas is like Christmas everywhere, and Molly shows the Haitian orphans are just typical kids at heart.
“Caterina gave me a candle, Maeve gave me a funny Christmas hat, and Lucrezia gave me a beautiful beaded necklace. We made our wishes for each other for the coming year, and I think everyone’s for me started with “Molly, you’re so young…”

“There was tons of food, and gifts for all the kids and staff. Everyone was enormously excited to receive their presents! Yvonne showed all 75 people her new purse and necklace, and Kenzie would not stop racing his toy car around the crowded room! It was very fun to see the kids so worked up and receiving so much attention.”

Dec. 30
In her most recent post, Molly talks about a difficult situation that she handles with typical grace and care. Jaques Cristo is an American-born “very, very smart” 7-year-old whose mother had dropped him at the American Embassy in Haiti. The orphanage is asked to care for him until his fate – probably foster care in the United States – can be determined.

He calmly told me his mother left him and wouldn’t be coming back, and that he thinks his dad is in Miami. Jacques was born in Brooklyn, so he’s an American citizen, but neither of his parents are. He speaks English and Creole fluently. He was born with a cleft palette and has already had several surgeries, but needs another soon. Maybe his mother didn’t receive a visa to go to the US with him for the surgery, or maybe she couldn’t afford to send him on her own. I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt- but what kind of mother just leaves her child, especially when he’s old enough to know he’s being left?
They spent the evening eating M&Ms and Doritos before she tucked him into bed.
“I spend almost everyday with the abandoned babies in the hospital, and it’s difficult to comprehend why and who would ever give them up. I’ve never encountered an abandoned child who is so aware of his situation, or one who feels the pain so freshly. It broke my heart.”

My thoughts: From what I understand of mothers who place their children in the care of others, most of the time, it’s done out of sheer desperation that is unimaginable to those of us who have food, money and the mental and physical where with all it takes to raise a child.

I feel enriched after reading Molly’s blog and my thoughts are with her family.

Oh, and here are the lyrics to the song:

Seasons of Love
525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes – how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? Measure in love.
How about love? Seasons of love.

PO Eateries Dropping Like Flies

Not a pretty image, I know.

I just heard today that the Clubhouse Grill & Cocktail Bar (4215 Southeast Mile Hill Drive) is the latest Port Orchard restaurant casualty of the recession. On a tip from South Kitsap resident and Kitsap Sun blogger Travis Baker, I called The Clubhouse and spoke to a person who declined to be identified after telling me they had closed yesterday (Jan. 11). When I asked why, I was told (in no uncertain terms), “Because the economy sucks and this is going to be the worst year for restaurants and bars, and there’s no reason to piss away our money.”

The Clubhouse was opened in 2001 by Frank Tweten, whose family has been in the restaurant business for two generations. It had been sold to a new owner.

Also up for lease is the Mentor property on Highway 166 (682 SW Bay St.), which has seen a succession of restaurants over the past 20 years. Gary Hobbs opened Smokey’s Bar B Que and Grill in 2008, after Fat Rascal’s, another BBQ joint, ran into debt from back taxes. Before that, it was a Mexican place, and there were a few other incarnations, including the old Clam Bake in the 1980s. I was unable to contact the Hobbs family to find out why they closed in mid-December. My guess is I’d get a response similar to that from the Clubhouse.

Undaunted by the economy is Tim Tweten, Frank’s brother, who is investing in an upgrade of the former Gino’s (429 Bay St.), soon to become the Lighthouse Restaurant and Lounge and already under new management. I was unable to contact Frank, but when I called Tim Tweten to see if he knew anything about the Clubhouse, he said he was sorry to hear about the closure.

“It’s a very, very challenging environment for everybody, as you know,” Tim said. “It’s just too bad they weren’t able to weather the storm.”

When I asked Tim if he, too, wasn’t a tad bit uneasy about launching a new venture even as the recession grinds on, he said, “No, I’m not nervous one bit about my ability. I have rather deep pockets, so my situation is quite unlike most anyone else.”

Location is another factor that can make or break a restaurant. Back when I wrote about Fat Rascal’s closing, I made a blog entry about “snake-bit” restaurant locations in Kitsap County. But Jennifer Mentor Mills, speaking last week on behalf of the Mentor Company, countered my suggestion that the property on Ross Creek with a view of Sinclair Inlet, is somehow hexed. As I mentioned in the blog, the property is slightly off the beaten path. Mudslides across the highway in the early 2000s didn’t help, but have now been fixed by the state DOT. Mills said her company has “a number of prospects” and hopes to lease the place soon.

“I think its great location,” Mills said. “Its got high traffic, high visibility, a nice layout for a restaurant and a great view. I think it could be a great location for a successful restaurant, and we have quite a lot of interest in it.”

Family, Friends Mourn Lisa Marie Johnson

Lisa Marie Johnson, the South Kitsap mother of three whose “dream” wedding was covered in February in the Kitsap Sun, died Wednesday at Hospice of Kitsap County in Silverdale Bremerton. She was 42.

Lisa Johnson & Family
Lisa Johnson & Family

Lisa was diagnosed in February, 2007 with stage four breast cancer. Despite aggressive treatment, malignant cells continued to spread to other organs in her body, and her prognosis was poor.
A year ago, friends, family and co-workers from the Port Orchard Fred Meyer — with the help of the nonprofit Making Memories — banded together to grant Lisa a fervent wish. When she and husband Steve were married, March 18, 1989, they had a low-key, low-budget ceremony.
The Johnsons as Newlyweds
The Johnsons as Newlyweds

On Valentine’s Day, 2009, the couple renewed their vows with the “dream” wedding they’d always wanted. Daughters Amanda, 20, Kayla, 19, and Judy, 16 were bridesmaids.
Lisa & Steve
Lisa & Steve

Lisa wore a designer gown donated by Brides Against Breast Cancer — the fundraising arm of Making Memories. The organization helped local volunteers find florists, photographers and others in the wedding industry willing to provide their services free or at a deep discount.
A Beautiful Bride
A Beautiful Bride

Also stepping up to the plate were members of First Christian Church in Port Orchard, who rearranged their schedule to accommodate the ceremony, offered the hall at no charge and corralled a cadre of cooks to provide the wedding feast gratis.
Before the ceremony, Steve said, “I’m excited to see how beautiful she’s going to look. It’s all about her. All the attention’s going to be on her, and it’s going to make me feel 10 feet tall.”
The couple had a honeymoon in Port Townsend.
Lisa continued to receive treatment and even went back to work briefly. But her condition continued to worsen.
On Dec. 11, those same friends and family who helped Lisa celebrate her marriage organized a fundraiser to help the Johnsons cover costs associated with her illness, including anticipated funeral expenses. The event raised nearly $3,000.
According to Lisa’s mother, Sharon Ewing of Bremerton, Lisa was involved in planning for arrangements, which will be handled by Tuell-McKee Funeral Home of Bremerton.
Donations are still being accepted for the Lisa M. Johnson Fund at any Kitsap Bank branch.