The Faces Behind the Scenes

If you’ve stayed at Walla Faces, you know our hotel is clean! A lot of work, thought and effort go into making everything “just perfect” before you arrive. We know you notice, as you tell us on TripAdvisor and Yelp. The comments of cleanliness are music to our ears! We thank you for those kind words.

It has been another busy week for Julia, Arcelia, and Alejandra. These three, the housekeeping staff of our two inns, are the integral foundation of the day-to-day operations of Walla Faces. Recently, I had the honor of sitting down with them to chat about their work.

WFhousekeepers-2

“I got lucky on that day,” Debbie says of the days she hired Julia, Arcelia, and Alejandra. Julia and Alejandra has been working for Walla Faces for five years; Arcelia has been for three. All three of the staff are able to cover the needs of our guests at either location. In a pinch, all of them help out with the wine crush and bottling. This year, in addition, they helped pick Syrah at the estate vineyard.

Housekeeping in a hotel is a very physically demanding job that includes many, varied tasks. Despite their many tasks, the women appreciate that their self-run operation allows them to “know what they have to do, and when they have to do it.” Yes, they are a self-directed work team. This, they tell me, is different from their previous jobs. They appreciate having full responsibility and accountability for their work. They help and  look out for one another when necessary.

Perhaps the most striking thing is how compassionate and kind they are. Throughout my time with them, they are smiling and laughing. They chuckle when I bring up tips. They get them sometimes, they say. I’d say they deserve them more often.

WFhousekeepersThen there’s Art, the self-described “jack of all trades, master of none.” Art is the Walla Faces all-round maintenance person, who can handle a technical problem at the inn in the morning, help Victor with tasks in the winery at noon, and be available to oversee operations in the vineyard in the afternoon. Julia and Arcelia tell me that he does it all and can fix anything. He, too, maintains a positive attitude despite his own taxing schedule.

When one thinks “Walla Faces”, some things immediately come to mind: wine, food truck night, and a place to stay in Walla Walla. These three women and our maintenance expert, as a team, keep the complex systems of Walla Faces running – every day. The hotel is a 24-hour operation. The winery is hair-raising busy once a year with other hectic events scattered throughout the year. The agricultural endeavor of the vineyard is equally taxing. All in all, these individuals go above and beyond to ensure everything runs without a hitch.

In the end, it’s the people that make up Walla Faces. We’re “blessed to have them,” Debbie says of the Julia, Arcelia, Alejandra and Art. Together, these dedicated people comprise a community of individuals that make Walla Faces unique for those who stay with us, for those in our wine club, and those who visit the tasting rooms or vineyard. As Debbie says, “we couldn’t do it without them.”

Restaurant Spotlight: Graze

Graze, offering a simple but delicious menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups to Walla Walla for the last five years, strives to serve “fresh, wholesome, seasonal, and honest food.

Graze

A Family Project

The creators of Graze, husband and wife John and Becca Lastoskie, met while they were both working in a restaurant in Sacramento, California. Though neither were trained chefs, it was always their dream to open a restaurant of their own. “The restaurant business is hard, you’ve either got the disposition for it or you don’t. And we love it,” Becca told me.

About ten years ago, they decided to go for it. They quit their jobs, sold their house, and packed their van with their dog and young son, to move “somewhere we could start a business and make it.” They considered Portland and Bend before finally (and luckily for us!) settling on Walla Walla because of its burgeoning wine industry and relatively low cost of living. In 2006, they opened Graze Catering. Serving food at everything from backyard BBQs to weddings to big events at many of the town’s wineries, they made Walla Walla their home.

In 2009, the catering business was struggling, and John and Becca were considering closing it down. Their second child, a daughter, was born premature and they were spending all of their time at the hospital, not quite making ends meet. Instead, after two years of serving sandwiches and other lunch food on the weekends at a stand at the Farmers Market, they decided to open a restaurant. This was the beginning of Graze, ‘a place to eat,’ located on Colville Street a few blocks away from our Inns at Historic Downtown.

“It was a rough time, really rough. But we decided to push through and open the sandwich shop, and everything has just gotten better and better since then.” Now, every January (their daughter’s birth month) John and Becca fundraise for the Ron McDonald House where they once spent so much time by donating 10% of the proceeds of their very successful business.

Delicious Success!

So why serve lunch? “It was less intimidating!” Becca laughed. “And we didn’t want to work nights.” Now Graze is always busy, open for lunch and dinner and serving a wide selection of fresh, healthy, and tasty sandwiches, paninis, salads, and soups. The atmosphere is casual and familial, with great music on the record player and a large shady patio for outdoor diners during hot Walla Walla summers.

Veggie torta

Becca recommends the veggie torta sandwich–yummm.

Sandwiches at Graze

Along with delicious sandwiches, Graze serves fresh salads and delectable soups.

My favorite thing to order at Graze is the turkey pear panini—it is my definite go-to. When I asked Becca the same question, she answered immediately, “The veggie torta!” She also recommended the turkey bacon panini (“our most popular, by far”) and the roasted pear salad with blue cheese dressing. “I would encourage visitors to come order something interesting or unusual, something they wouldn’t get at your average sandwich place,” she added. “Branch out! Everything we serve is good.

The success of Graze has led to even more incarnations of the business. In 2012, John and Becca decided to put their catering kitchen, on 9th St., to further use by opening a drive-thru where they could serve their own version of fast food—Graze’s gourmet sandwiches—through the window. Standing amid all of the traditional fast food places—McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc.—it is quick, convenient, and my favorite place to stop for a full, healthy meal on my way out of town. “It was John’s idea, I thought it was crazy! It was slow at first, but now it’s going great,” Becca said of the drive-thru. And just this year, in 2014, John and Becca opened up a second restaurant in Kennewick, to bring their cuisine to the Tri-Cities.

Graze: A Drive Thru

If you’re looking for a quick alternative to fast food, check out Graze’s drive-thru on 9th!

We are so glad that they chose to make their home in Walla Walla and bring such dependable, delicious food to the local residents as well as all of our visitors. Next time you’re in town, swing by for takeout, a peaceful patio lunch, or a fun family dinner. Graze won’t disappoint.

Walla Walla Sandwich Shop

Phone: 509.522.9991

Hours: Daily: 10am-7:30pm & Sunday, 10am-3:30pm”

Address: 5 South Colville Street Walla Walla, WA 99362

Walla Walla Drive Thru:

Phone: 509.540.1261

Hours: Daily: 10am-7:30pm & Sunday, 10am-3:30pm”

Address: 213 S 9th Ave, Walla Walla, WA 99362

Kennewick Sandwich Shop

Phone: 509.221.1020

Hours: Daily: 10am-7:30pm & Sunday, 10am-3:30pm

Address: 8530 West Gage Blvd. Kennewick, WA 99336

What Made Prohibition Popular in Walla Walla?

Walla Walla’s earliest modern winery started in the 1970s, but Walla Walla had a rich history of winemaking that began in 1859, long before Prohibition. The industry had its ups and downs, but Prohibition definitely stamped out the formal wine industry before it restarted many decades later. Today, Prohibition was almost one hundred years ago, yet even in the middle of Walla Walla wine country, the effects of the dry decade are not far in the past. With the history of wine in Walla Walla, why was Prohibition so popular and how does it continue to influence alcohol policy today?

As recently as November 2011, Citizen’s Initiative 1183 was passed in Washington that ended the state monopoly on liquor sales that had existed since the end of Prohibition. Private liquor sales only began on June 1, 2012. How is it possible that Washington’s treatment of alcohol still relied on laws that were made almost a century ago? I went to the Northwest Archives in Whitman College’s Penrose Library, visited the Kirkman House Museum, and read news articles discussing the issue from 2010 and 2012 in order to find out why, in a region so fond of its grains and grapes, Prohibition was so popular.

A Dry Decade in Walla Walla

In order to understand the historical perspective on Prohibition, I looked through Harriette Robinson’s papers in Whitman College’s Library archives. Harriette Robinson was obviously a “dry”—that is, a supporter of Prohibition (in contrast with the anti-Prohibition “wets”). Her postcard collection and scrapbook of “Temperance, Option League, and Prohibition” news clippings showed me how people of the time argued for Prohibition.

Below are some photos of original publications at the time in Walla Walla. The poem titled “Vote for Me, Papa” was in response to the argument from the “wets” that some money from saloons went towards schools through taxes, and it ended on the line, “If I vote for my boy, I can only vote ‘dry’.” Some newspapers pulled all the stops, being at once patriotic, sentimental, funny, and practical.

“Drys” were particularly aggressive in their campaigns against saloons, which they saw as providers of alcohol and places of temptation and vice. The saloon was shown as a predatory, almost monstrous establishment that wasted and corrupted youth. In fact, one satirical ad for saloons contains the lines, “We are just obliged to have new customers–fresh young blood… If you once get started with us we guarantee to hold you.”

The saloon’s thirst for fresh victims in that ad is no doubt due to the large amount of crime and incarceration reportedly linked to alcohol. After all, it’s hard to visit a saloon if you’re in jail! But saloons reportedly caused more than crime–they caused laziness, too. One November 26th, 1909 article said that “the saloon is a constant temptation to farmer boys; is a constant source of annoyance and expense, by reason of impairing the efficiency of farm help.” Alcohol was a significant social problem, especially for an agriculture-based community like Walla Walla, and it was easy to rally behind its prohibition.

The Kirkman House Museum in Walla Walla has a video exhibit titled “Roaring Twenties in Walla Walla” which explained that most citizens adapted to Prohibition. Breweries offered “near beers” or other wholesome beverages.  However, not all Walla Walla folks were happy about giving up their alcohol, and many continued to produce their own in secret. A 1921 newspaper account of the seizure of an illegal still described dumping one gallon of alcohol every 11 seconds. That’s a lot of moonshine!

The Post-Prohibition Age

Today, Prohibition has been repealed for over 80 years, but that doesn’t mean Walla Walla has returned to its loose laws in the Wild West days of unregulated, “shameless dens of infamy”. It has never been the same since, with a minimum drinking age and mandatory alcohol server training to regulate alcohol sales and consumption.

However, although Prohibition taught America some lessons about alcohol, we’re better off without it. After all, Walla Walla’s booming wine industry never would have flourished under Prohibition. Walla Walla’s fine wines deserve to be poured into your glass–not down the drain!

Wine 101: What’s the Deal with Vintage?

“Vintage” means one thing when you’re talking about dresses from the forties or that cool thrift shop you’ve always meant to visit, but it means something entirely different when it comes to wine. I’ve always been vaguely aware of this, but unsure of how what exactly it means or, more importantly, how significant it is to making and choosing the perfect wine.

What makes a wine a vintage?

“Vintage” comes from the French “vin,” meaning simply wine. A wine’s vintage refers to the year its grapes were harvested. In France, the USA, and Canada, to be labeled as a vintage, a wine must be made from 95% of grapes harvested that year. Wines from other parts of the world sometimes have up to 15-25% of grapes from other years in their “vintages.”

Why does the vintage change the quality of the wine so much?

“Vintage variation” is the difference in taste between same wines from different years. Sometimes it is barely noticeable and others it can be very striking! This variation all depends on the way the weather influences the grapes during a given growing season.

A good vintage means the weather was well-balanced throughout the entire year. Not too much rain, not too cold or too hot, no unexpectedly harsh hailstorms… This type of balance allows the grapes to ripen evenly and slowly. Too much rain can cause the grapes to rot, while too much intense heat makes them overripe and increases the taste of alcohol in the wine. Lots of rain right around the harvest can leave grapes flavorless and watery. Even the smallest imbalance of weather, be it “too much” or “too little” of any factor, changes the wine.

Interestingly, a bad year for reds could be a good year for whites. A “cooler vintage,” meaning a year growing season with colder temperatures and perhaps more precipitation, can be a death wish for full, spicy red wines but create whites that are pleasantly crisp and acidic.

a quick look at vintages in the last ten years from www.winefolly.com

A quick look at vintages in the last ten years, from www.winefolly.com

Likewise, as this “overly simplified” vintage chart from Wine Folly illustrates, a bad year in France could be a good year in Washington, since weather varies so much between regions.

Does the vintage always matter?

To some extent, yes—wine is an agricultural, not an industrial product, and thus the climate and weather will always influence the way grapes turn out.

However, very decent wines can be made from not-so-decent vintage years, which is often where the skill and craftsmanship of winemakers comes in.

Wines that aren’t from the best vintage years often benefit from aging and can turn out great if they are cellared and stored for a few more years!

Further, some regions have less volatile climates than others. California, for example, is one of the biggest producers of wine in the world, but the weather is so dependably, consistently good that the vintages do not change much from year to year. For California wines, the vintage is not always important.

On the other hand, the famous Bordeaux and Burgundy regions in France are places where the vintage matters very much—and their good vintages are so well known that wine merchants often find it difficult to sell Bordeaux wine from an “off” year, even if it is quite good!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, vintage also matters. While the weather is a little easier to count on in the Walla Walla Valley than in the western part of the state, Washington in a place with lots of variation in our weather. Sometimes it snows in the winter and sometimes it doesn’t, and spring doesn’t have an arrival date—it pretty much comes whenever it feels like it!

While it is definitely not the only factor that makes a wine “good,” vintage is a great thing to know about when tasting or buying wine in Walla Walla!

Restaurant Spotlight: Olive Marketplace and Café

When it comes to places to eat in Walla Walla, I have a special place in my heart for Olive Marketplace and Café. When I moved to town, it was the first place I ever went out to dinner. Since then, I have been back more times than I can count, and for good reason: the food is consistently great, the atmosphere is warm and easygoing, and the eatery is wonderfully and dependably always open—even on Sundays! Located a few blocks down from our Inn at Historic Downtown on Main Street, Olive has a lot to offer.

Olive Marketplace and Café

The Story

Olive is owned by Jake and Tabitha Crenshaw, a husband and wife who moved here in 2006 from Seattle so Tabitha could attend the viticulture school program at Walla Walla Community College. According to Tabitha, they stayed “because we both are lifelong food and wine lovers.” They even met working the restaurant industry, she as a waitress and he as a chef. Jake worked at The Marcus Whitman, T.Maccarone’s, and finally opened his own restaurant, Olive, in 2010.

Before Olive, the warm, spacious, two-story space was Walla Walla’s Merchant’s Café for over thirty years. The Crenshaws “wanted to keep Olive in the same spirit,” meaning a place that was always accessible and always open, for three meals a day. Tabitha explained that “we have our patio, for you to sit and people-watch… it’s a place for the whole community, and we think it keeps Main Street fun, and lively, and the place to be in Walla Walla.

They do a lot to keep it lively.  Local artists rotate art shows through Olive about four times a year, with a big opening reception each time. Every Thursday night, local musicians play live music from 6-8pm, an event that Tabitha and Jake pair with a guest appearance by a local winery to offer a tasting for the guests. “Most wineries close around 4 or 5 pm, so it’s great for visitors to get the chance to try one more, or for locals to come who are just getting off work.” Recently, they started replacing one of these Thursdays a month with a beer tasting. “There are actually lots of local breweries opening up around here,”  Tabitha said.

The Food

“The premise is an accessible community gathering place, with farm-to-table local ingredients,” Tabitha explained. “We get a really good mix of tourists and locals—we see our fair share of tourists, and of course we have 80% local wines on our menu, and 10 or 11 of them that you can get by the glass, so it’s a great place to come if you’re in town for wine tasting to sample a few more local wines. But our locals are our bread and butter, they’re here year-round and we love them.” They host discount pizza nights and offer cooking classes, hoping to give back to the town.

The beauty of Olive is that it’s there for almost any occasion—for a morning espresso and pastry; for full breakfast (personally I recommend the strata); for a glass of wine outdoors in the afternoon; for picnic-goers looking to pick up some artisan bread, cheese, seafood, or meats; for a big family dinner, or even late-night dessert.

Devouring the grape and prosciutto pizza that Tabitha recommended...

Devouring the grape and prosciutto pizza that Tabitha recommended…

I also asked Tabitha for her favorite menu item—a hard question, I knew, since there are so many things to try and taste at Olive just for one meal out of the day! “I would probably pick one of our pizzas—the chefs have just nailed the crust, and it’s perfect and crispy and thin. The salmon pizza is delicious, and the prosciutto and grape is really popular too. “

“And then there’s dessert— there are those beautiful layered cake creations up in the front case—you’re stronger than I am if you can go up to the counter and not order one!”

Olive is a staple in downtown Walla Walla, a place to experience good food and a taste of the town’s community. Plus, you never have to wonder if they’re open.

21 E. Main St., Walla Walla, WA 99362

Phone: (509) 526-0200

Open 8am-9pm Daily

All About Rhône Wine Country

As anyone who has experienced the wines of Walla Walla knows, Syrah is one of the flagship wines of the region. Its deep color and full flavors have made Syrah one of the most notable grapes of the Walla Walla Valley. The history of the Syrah grape is long and mysterious, and while the Syrah grape–surprisingly–did not originate here in Eastern Washington, the region it comes from is a fascinating site of wine history as well as an exciting counterpart to our own home here in Walla Walla.

This, of course, is one of the oldest wine regions in the world — the Rhône, located on the Rhône River in southeastern France.

Rhône Valley

The Rhône is legendary for wine–although its scenery is breathtaking as well. Photo by Peter Gorges.

The Rhône is impressive simply for the sheer length of history that wine has in the region. As far back as 600 BCE, Greeks and Romans were enjoying and writing about the region’s wine. The varieties they described could either be Syrah or one of its parent grapes.  Scientists hypothesize that the grape we know today as Syrah was most likely cultivated for the first time in this region. One thing’s for certain: two thousand years later, the Rhône’s popularity and renown have only increased!

Generally, the larger Rhône wine region is broken up into two distinct sub-regions, the Northern and Southern, each with its own identity and flavor of wine. These fascinating regions combine the fertile climate of the south of Europe with the rugged chill of the north, to produce a variety of wonderful wines. They showcase the importance of climate on wine, and illustrate how even a small difference in location can yield vastly different grapes.

The northern Rhône region is hilly and full of steep, stony slopes carved by the river over thousands of years. It has harsh winters and mild summers, with a climate largely dominated by the powerful mistral wind, which brings in the cool air of northwestern Europe. This climate is ideal for Syrah grapes; in fact, Syrah is the only pure red wine that may be labeled an official regional product of the northern Rhône. Here, some of the worlds oldest and highest quality wines are grown and produced. It’s fair to say that the northern Rhône was the first Syrah country on Earth!

The larger Southern Rhône is a broad valley that straddles the river as it enters a more Mediterranean climate. This means warmer winters and hot summers, and a larger variety of grapes that can be grown. Reflecting this, the most popular reds from this part of the region are blends—which of course, almost always include Syrah.

As lovers of Syrah, we find the Rhône to be an inspiring parallel to Walla Walla. Hot summers, cold winters? Mountain hillsides and warm valley floors? A thriving industry with strong Syrah and a community that cares deeply for the quality of their wine? Hopefully in 2,000 years, we will still be singing the praises of Walla Walla wines as well.

Interested in exploring Walla Walla, the “Rhône” of Washington? Book a stay at our Walla Walla hotels to experience Washington wine country firsthand.

 Rhone Valley photo by Peter Gorges, released under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Thank you, Peter!

Restaurant Spotlight: T. Maccarone’s

Visitors to Walla Walla wine country: Are you looking for fine dining with a local flair? Wondering what might be a good restaurant for a date, family gathering, or special occasion during your stay at Walla Faces? A few blocks away from our downtown inns is T. Maccarone’s, a self-described “modern Washington wine country bistro influenced by classic Italian sensibilities,” perfect for all these occasions and more.

I had the chance recently to sit down with owner and general manager Tom Maccarone in his beautiful blue and grey dining room. Born and raised here in Walla Walla, Tom opened the restaurant in 2005. He moved away to Seattle for years, working for Nordstrom’s and Eddie Bauer, before returning to his hometown and pursuing his true passion in the restaurant business.

The Food

From at big Italian family, Tom says that the restaurant initially served a lot of his own grandmother’s recipes and more traditional Italian food, but that the menu has changed and grown as he’s brought on new chefs and grown the business. These days, Tom says head chef Gerry Mezza is whipping up new delicacies all the time. “Yes, we have bolognese, tagliatelle, and we use gnocchi, but we have a lot of things that we play with curry, and have a lot of Asian-inspired food. So, you know, you have to stay relevant in the business, you have to stay on top of things, stay a step above what everyone is doing.”

Since we were already on the topic of the menu, I asked Tom about his favorite thing to order.

At first he just laughed. “Ohh, that’s tough. Probably my go to is the bolognese. It’s been on the menu for five, seven years… there are certain things that we just cannot change or take off the menu. For something lighter, not so filling, the halibut is just drop dead. For a mix, there’s the Land and Sea—it’s two beautiful lamb chops and two seared scallops. But there is nothing on the menu that I wouldn’t order!” I would have to agree—everything I’ve tried so far at T. Maccarone’s has exceeded my expectations, from the fresh, tangy pear and arugula salad to the rich and creamy lamb gnocchi.

It’s A Local Thing

T. Maccarone’s strives to serve “everything local we can get,” including everything from meat to eggs to herbs to, of course, wine. But the business is a love letter to Walla Walla in more ways than just its menu.

“I have a huge local following, ‘cause I was born and raised here,” Tom explained, rattling off a long list of friends, relatives, schoolmates, teachers, and other relations who regularly visit the restaurant. “It’s endless!”

“I’m really the only person that has this caliber of a restaurant in Walla Walla who was born and raised here… It’s an old community, it’s an old town, so the heritage here is strong and long.

Tom reflects that the familial feel of T. Maccarone’s is one of the things he tries hardest to create in his day-to-day work as the face of the restaurant. Even if customers are from out-of-town, he hopes to include them in the community when they visit T. Mac’s.

“My whole philosophy with this business is that I want people to feel at home here, I want them to feel comfortable, I want them to feel like they’re at my house having dinner. So the experience is me coming over to them, saying hello, asking them where they’re from, talking to them, making them feel welcome.”

T. Maccarone's dining room

T. Maccarone’s dining room

Owner and general manager Tom Maccarone

Owner and general manager Tom Maccarone

The chefs, waiters, and staff all come together at T. Maccarone’s to make Tom’s vision come to life.  The fresh, local food that is simultaneously classic and new, along with the modern and comfortable space and friendly faces, make this one of my favorite places in town to “go out.”

“Good food, good wine, good friends, and good atmosphere equals success to me,” Tom told me, looking around the room with a smile. We think so too!

T. Maccarone’s is located at 4 N. Colville Street, Walla Walla WA 99362, and is open daily 11:30-9pm for lunch and dinner. Call them at (509) 522-4776, or visit them online at http://tmaccarones.com/.

A Happy Accident: Our Guest House Renovation

One of the most exciting happenings at the Walla Faces Vineyard this season was the recent opening of our newly renovated guest house! However, it was somewhat of a last-minute addition to our spring to-do list…

In February, what you might call a “deep freeze” hit the Walla Walla valley. The winter’s icy temperatures were perfect for winemaking, and made a unique contribution to the production of our new rosé–but unfortunately, they were not so kind to our guest house. Before long, we discovered that a pipe had frozen and burst, flooding the building and ruining the floor, walls, and some furniture.

A team from local First Choice Restoration, led by Randy Wisdom, was there doing cleanup within the hour. Meanwhile, owners Rick and Debbie decided to turn the mess into an opportunity.

Instead of a mere reconstruction, the guest house received a full remodel, to give it an updated, cleaner, and more sophisticated atmosphere. It boasts all new drywall and a new white-washed oak floor. A larger, tiled fireplace is the centerpiece of the rearranged living room, while the bathroom has brand new tiling and fixtures. The updated space is airy, modern, and luxurious.

Our guest house was already one of our favorite places at the Vineyard. It is the largest available space, with a full kitchen and a hot tub. Even better, the windows and private patio have spectacular views of the vineyards and surrounding Blue Mountains. Now it’s more beautiful than ever, and it’s hard to think of a more peaceful place to spend a vacation.

Thank you, February! It turns out that pipe bursting was the best thing that could have happened to our guest house after all.

If you want to see the new space, now is a great time to book it for a few days! Go to http://www.wallafaces.com/hotels/ for details.

A Local Tradition: The Walla Walla Downtown Farmers Market

If you find yourself in Walla Walla for the weekend and take a morning walk down Main Street, chances are you will be drawn in off the sidewalk by the Downtown Farmers Market.

Walla Walla Farmers Market pavilion

The pavilion at the Downtown Farmers Market is hard to miss.

The market is a festive melee of local families, children, visitors and students, all enjoying live music and eating homemade snacks. Cheerful conversation floats around the earthy-smelling summer air. Bags bulge with mouthwatering produce—not just our famous sweet onions, but leafy greens, bright radishes, carrots, and tomatoes—whatever is freshest and most in season!

From May through October, more than seventy vendors gather at 4th and Main every Saturday, offering local produce, delicious homemade food, and arts and crafts. The market is a fixture of Walla Walla summers. It has gone up every weekend in this very spot since 1996. However, it is ever-evolving—this year, the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation will also run a “Twilight Farmers Market” on Thursday evenings at a separate location on First Avenue. This new market starts in June, to ensure long, warm evenings for shopping, socializing, and perhaps watching the spectacular Walla Walla sunsets.

If, like me, you are always looking for an authentic local experience when you visit a new town, the Farmer’s Market is the perfect destination. On these sunny summer mornings, local buyers and sellers gladly welcome newbies, tourists, and out-of-towners. When I moved to Walla Walla four years ago, visiting the market on those first few lonely weekends made me instantly feel like a real part of the town’s community. It also gave me a chance to taste local food, contribute to local small business, and pick up a few cool gifts for my family back in Portland, handmade by Walla Walla residents. On my first visit to the Farmer’s Market I bought a box of fresh raspberries and a terrific duct tape wallet for my fourteen-year-old brother from a local kid who looked about the same age. Afterwards, I spent another hour walking slowly up and down the rows of tents and tables, listening to the bluegrass music, soaking it all in.

Whatever treats and treasures you might find, half the beauty of the Farmers Market is the chance to experience Walla Walla in a brand new way, and participate in a local tradition!

The Saturday Downtown Farmers Market began May 3rd and is located in Crawford Park at 4th Ave and Main and runs from 9am-1pm every Saturday. Thursday Twilight Farmers Market will begin June 5th on First Avenue. Visit http://downtownwallawalla.com/category/news/downtown-farmers-market/ or call (509) 529-8755 for more information.

Read more about the history of the farmer’s market here: http://wallawallalifestyles.com/to-market-two-markets/