When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled several springtime Washougal events, including the popular Washougal Easter Egg Hunt and Eggstravaganza, local officials started to get creative about how they could still pull the community together during a public health crisis that has quashed public gatherings.
“One of the things that we’re working on is increasing community engagement,” administrative assistant Rose Jewell said recently. “At first, we thought the pandemic was going to be short-lived, but then we realized that it’s going to be with us for a while, and we can’t not engage our citizens. So (city communications specialist) Michele Loftus, (Washougal School District communications specialist) Rene Carroll and I had conversations about what we could do virtually.”
Those conversations led to the creation of the Washougal Summer Scavenger Hunt, which began Aug. 20, and wraps up later this week, on Thursday, Aug. 27.
“These have been a challenging few months for everyone,” Washougal Mayor Molly Coston stated in a press release about the new event. “It was a disappointment for us to cancel our community events due to the pandemic. So, as the summer is coming to an end, we thought it would be a wonderful idea to engage local kids with a fun activity that they can participate in safely around their homes.”
“We have to think about new ways (of doing things),” Jewell added. “The scavenger hunt was a great opportunity for us to think outside the box about ways of engaging people with minimal risk. We also want to let people know that we’re still here, and still working for them. We can’t let people in (at Washougal City Hall), but we’re still here and still love our community. We still do our business, but we haven’t forgotten that we’re a part of the community, too. We want to reach out the best we can.”
The hunt features Bingo-like cards with three themes: “Forage and Find” asks participants to collect outdoor elements such as twigs and flowers; “Household Hunt” is focused on finding objects like potted plants and toothpaste; and “Discovering Wonderful Washougal” sends youth into their neighborhoods to find items such as benches and stop signs.
Once children have completed their scavenger hunt cards, they can redeem prizes from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, at Hathaway Park. Parents also may take photos of their child’s completed cards and submit them to the city’s website. City personnel and city council members will collect the cards and distribute the prizes while practicing social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols.
“Although (the) city has been busy working through this time, we have missed seeing everyone,” Coston said. “We hope families will take advantage of this fun kid activity and take the opportunity to drive past to at least say, ‘Hello.’”
Jewell said that even though city officials created the event in response to the pandemic, they could hold it again in the future.
“We tried to develop it quickly (for this year), but if it takes off, we could infuse more attention to it next year and build it up bigger and better,” Jewell said. “It might be a new summer event for the city of Washougal.”
Scavenger hunt cards are available at cityofwashougal.us/ScavengerHunt and outside of the Washougal Community Library at 1661 “C” St.
To redeem prizes, families should bring their competed cards or digital submission confirmations to Hathaway Park, on “G” Street between 24th and 25th avenues, between 2 and 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27. Prizes will be handed out in a drive-through manner, with participants asked to stay in their cars and wear a face covering.