A community favorite

Camas Days festival attracts thousands in its 42nd year

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Camas Days once again proved to be a crowd favorite, attracting approximately 14,000 people during its two-day run July 22 and 23.

“This was definitely one of the bigger turnouts we have had in a few years,” said Brent Erickson, executive director of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce. “The Grande Parade alone drew about 5,000 people.”

Erickson credited the mild weather for the boost in attendance.

“Some years it has been 100 degrees and others we have had the rains,” Erickson said. “This year the weather was perfect.”

Friday’s events began with a light mist, but it soon wore off and gave way to partially cloudy skies, just right for those who wanted to wander through the plethora of vendor booths or enjoy some of the mouth-watering festival treats.

Ruth and Paul Aktepy are originally from Montana, but while visiting family in Vancouver last weekend they decided to stop by Camas Days for the first time.

“Camas is a neat little town,” said Ruth. “We love it here. It’s a fun place.”

Along with first-time attendees, Camas Days welcomed returning patrons and vendors. Rob Cramer of local business Image Works has had a vendor stall at Camas Days for nine years, and he plans to keep coming back selling vintage signs and posters.

“I do well here every year,” he said, “But I really like the area and the people. I see a lot of the same customers every year and it’s really great down here.”

The theme of this year’s festival was “Summer Days & Nights,” a nod to the musical “Grease.”

The women of The Wild Hair took the concept and gave it their own unique twist for the Grand Parade. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the downtown Camas beauty salon’s owner, Jyl Straub, wanted to go all out on decorating a float.

“Since the Camas Days parade theme was ‘Grease,’ it was perfect for us to re-create the ‘Beauty School Dropout’ dream sequence scene,” she said.

In the 1978 movie the character “Frenchy,” portrayed by actress Didi Conn, is featured in a scene with singer Frankie Avalon after she leaves high school to attend beauty school. Despite her enthusiasm, she fails miserably.

“So instead of Frenchy being a dropout and her having pink hair by mistake, we recreated her to have Frenchy’s Beauty Parlor and The Wild Hair really does specialize in the most vivid colors on the block,” Straub said. “We tried to keep the set very close to the video. The whole scene is in silver — also the color used for 25th anniversaries — with pops of pink like Frenchy’s hair and bubble gum bubbles.”

Even with the help of friends Dave and Jean Sarchet, the process of building the float took many hours. They worked with supplies including wood, paint, flooring tiles, 45 vinyl records, dozens of empty toilet paper rolls, and lots of cardboard, foam, piping and tissue paper.

“We tried to cover every detail including all of walkers [during the parade] dressed as Pink Ladies and Greasers with decorated wagons,” she said. “We passed out candy and necklaces. We did the hand movements from the video. My parents, John and Judy Straub, drove us and there were 25 adults and children riding and walking with our float, many of them sporting ‘wild hair.'”

All of that hard work was rewarded as the float was selected to receive the parade’s top recognition.

“We are truly honored and grateful to win the Grand Prize award,” Straub said. “It means so much to us. We all had an absolute blast doing this. Hard work pays off and it feels like a magical dream.”

Overall, there were 77 entries in the parade.

“We heard a lot of positive feedback about it,” Erickson noted. “People want to get involved and make it fun for themselves and others. That’s what the best part is for me: The community all having a good time and finding things they enjoy.”

The Senior Royalty luncheon after the parade also captured the ‘Summer Days and Nights,’ theme well. Tables were decorated with vintage records, beach balls, popcorn and balloons. The hosted luncheon, for past and present royalty and guests, was held at Zion Lutheran Church. This year’s senior royalty couple were longtime community volunteers Walt and Pauline Eby.

The Ebys have volunteered for 10 years at the Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal.

At the ever popular bathtub races, crowds gathered to cheer for their favorite. The event featured eight teams of three people each. Aaron Lutz, owner of Lutz Hardware, once again organized the event, but found himself scrambling for volunteers when some of the regular teams chose not to participate.

Team Valor was comprised of three random people from the audience, and Lutz also convinced store employees to form a second team.

It turned out to be a good day for Lutz Hardware, as their teams took first and second place. The Bathtub Bandits, who have won the event at least five times, had to settle for third-place, but put forth a valiant effort.

“We won by default,” Lutz joked.

He added that Camas Days isn’t about the downtown businesses, which typically see a drop in sales that weekend.

“It’s about getting the community out here and just having fun,” he said. “That’s the best part about it.”

Erickson agrees.

“As a lifelong Camas resident who remembers what it used to be like, there is so much more involvement from the community now,” he said. “It was great to see how people can have fun and make this such a positive event.”

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