Vashon: where life’s an island
Just a short ferry ride away from the hustle and bustle of Seattle is a little bit of heaven on earth that very few people have ever heard of – Vashon Island. This lovely island in Puget Sound has a small town charm and the relaxed pace of an earlier and simpler time, but it is definitely not Mayberry. Oh, there are certainly a few similarities. This is the sort of place where everybody knows each other, and people take the time to stop and chat with their neighbors. There is very little crime, and the residents trust each other enough to sell pies and assorted farm produce at unmanned roadside stands where you pay on the honor system. While it may seem at first glance to be an idyllic holdover from the fifties, a closer look will reveal that Vashon has a very different culture from any small town your grandparents ever experienced.
Keep Vashon Weird
Vashon has attracted a quirky mix of artists and art lovers, writers, musicians, organic farmers, and hippies who have melded together to form an artistic, progressive and open-minded culture unique to the island. The folks here like to do their own thing, and are happy to let their neighbors do the same – which is a nice change from many small communities that have a tendency to get judgmental about people who are not quite mainstream. Vashon islanders know they are a little different, maybe even a little odd, and they proudly proclaim their oddity on a popular bumper sticker that says “Keep Vashon Weird”. This is a small, close-knit community, but they don’t have that innate distrust of strangers exhibited by so many small towns. Vashon is full of friendly people who welcome newcomers with open arms.
An island full of creativity
Although the island only has about 10,000 – 12,000 residents, they boast an impressive array of cultural and recreational resources that few towns with similarly small populations could ever hope to achieve. Denizens of tiny Vashon don’t need to take the ferry to Seattle to enjoy a little culture – they have quite a lot of high-brow culture right in their backyard. For music lovers, Vashon has its own chamber music society and opera company, and it hosts an annual summer concert series. A new performing arts center provides a venue for dance, theatre, and concerts by well known musicians, and fans of the Bard can attend a production of Shakespeare in the Park. For those who prefer the visual arts, there are ample galleries, art studios, and exhibits to keep any art aficionado happy.
Connoisseurs of the culinary arts can sample locally made wines and enjoy a delicious meal from one of the many fine restaurants on the island. Whether you prefer sushi, Indian cuisine, vegan, gluten-free or gourmet farm-to-table food, there are restaurants to cater to every taste. This is the kind of community where you are greeted by name at your favorite restaurant, and the wait staff remembers your regular order. Vashon islanders who prefer to create their own cuisine can get fresh organic ingredients for their culinary masterpieces directly from their farming neighbors at the weekly farmer’s market – another opportunity for the members of the community to enjoy each other’s company and catch up on the latest friendly gossip.
Slow Your Roll
The residents of the island enjoy a slower pace than most of us, and the geography of the island has a lot to do with its culture. Many Vashon islanders work in Seattle and commute daily on the ferry. Although it would be more convenient to be able to drive directly to work, residents have fought construction of a bridge connecting them to the rest of the world. Convenience is highly overrated in the Vashon culture. The lack of a bridge helps to keep the weird and wonderful parts of Vashon culture intact while keeping the frantic pace of the mainland at bay. Having to ride the ferry to and from the island forces you to slow down and provides a calming bookend to your days. The commuters aren’t stuck in traffic on their way to work, they are enjoying each other’s company while they are able to get out of their cars and enjoy the view of the ocean and their beautiful island with the sun on their faces and the wind in their hair. The return trip includes happy hour on the ferry, where the islanders can drink a toast to their unique way of life with their friends and neighbors. Here’s to keeping it weird.