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July 26, 2011
Joanna Duran gives her daughter, Delaney a lift to look at the animal prizes offered by Pure Wellness, a chiropractic and massage clinic in Washougal.

Celebrating a tradition of fun

Whether it was scoring that roll of toilet paper or the piece of candy at the main parade, or the wonderful aromas wafting from the food area, or the many trinkets vendors were selling, Camas Days was all about having fun. It came complete with tasty doughnuts, promising raffles and lively crowds. A crackle of energy ran through the air as people had the chance to explore booths set up by local and near-by vendors. With everything from handcrafted wood furniture to soaps to garlic, there was something that appealed to everyone. The annual two-day festival on Friday and Saturday brought big crowds to downtown Camas. In addition to the family-themed events, there was also a Wine and Microbrew Street, complete with live music for the adults.

July 19, 2011
Gene Dietzen assists student Joan Anderson during a recent jewelry making class. His said his passion is teaching.

Learning the tools of the trade

Gene Dietzen has always been interested in creating things from scratch. "When I was in high school, I made model kits and these were photographed and actually used on the cover for different manufacturers," he said. Dietzen dabbled in jewelry making after high school, but between managing a career and earning a college degree, he didn't have the time for his true passion: teaching. Several years ago, Dietzen found that creative outlet through East County Community Education, teaching astronomy and eventually jewelry making, among other things. After a stint there, Dietzen wanted to find a place where he could solder without fear of "burning the building down." He taught classes in southeast Portland and at a Washougal shop before opening up his own studio in Camas four years ago, after a back injury forced an early retirement.

July 12, 2011
The Puffin Cafe offers lots to view for those who eat their meals outside.

The ‘al fresco’ experience

Ah, summer. Finally, most of us can safely wear our lighter clothing and shoes for more than one day in a row. Of course, with the nice weather comes an opportunity to take part in something most Northwesterners don't get to do a lot of during the winter months: Get outdoors and soak up the sunshine. Many local eateries in Camas and Washougal have responded to that need by providing outdoor dining options. On a bright, warm day last Wednesday, several local residents could be seen enjoying their cuisine at different local restaurants in the great outdoors. At Natalia's in downtown Camas, Renee Sanders enjoyed breakfast with 7-month-old daughter, Ellen, and her parents. "I love the fresh air and not being cooped up inside," Sanders said.

July 5, 2011
If Nell Warren and Greg Misarti have a plan amendment approved by the Columbia Gorge Commission, they would eventually like to have three artists living on their property and using this refurbished 1895 barn for studio space.

A fusion of art & ecology

Take a step onto the property at Southeast Gibson Road, and it's like entering a different world. The hustle and bustle of life are left behind and replaced with oak trees, flowers, a pond and native plants.

June 28, 2011
Participants in a Zumba toning class follow instructions from Rachelle Wish, a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor.

Fitness for the body and mind

Almost everyone has tried a diet or exercise plan of some kind with the best of intentions, only to quit a few weeks later when they don't see results or get tired of drastically cutting calories.

June 21, 2011
Students raise their hands in victory after completing the blackberry bush removal project at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  Sixth-graders from Jemtegaard and Canyon Creek middle schools spent two days last week learning about the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding area.

Empowering observation

Four years ago, the need for an outdoor school replacement activity resulted in an unusual partnership. The Washougal School District approached the Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a non-profit preservation group, about working with local sixth-graders who had outdoor school cut as a part of budget constraints. "Both sides felt this was a missing piece," said Maegan Jossy, outdoor program coordinator. After a private donation enabled the program to move forward, the goal has been to have students experience the Columbia Gorge in a new way, while aligned with state learning standards.

June 14, 2011
Brendan Casey (left) and Zac Schepp pose for a photo while waiting for festivities to begin.

WHS Panthers are encouraged to persevere

With 180 graduates, approximately $700,000 in scholarships and a few technical glitches, the Washougal High School class of 2011 proudly ended its high school career Saturday night at Fishback Stadium. The sun shone brightly as valedictorian Darcy Akers encouraged her classmates to look toward the future. "I don't know what the future holds, but I hope you are all looking forward to the possibilities," she said. "Most of all, thanks to the friends. Best friends are hard to find, harder to leave and even harder to forget. Thanks for being there, whether we're flying or falling."

June 14, 2011
After CHS graduates moved the tassels on their caps from right to left, each student donned a pair of sunglasses and danced to "Forever," by Chris Brown. At the song's conclusion, many of the graduates threw their caps into the air at Doc Harris Stadium.

CHS seniors exhibit their ‘Papermaker Pride’

Smiles could be seen throughout Doc Harris Stadium Friday night, as the first Camas High School class to attend a graduation ceremony in the rebuilt structure were there to enjoy themselves. During the processional, bubbles started to fill the air as the CHS band performed "Pomp and Circumstance." Principal Steve Marshall set the tone for the event early on, saying it could be a "dignified ceremony and a celebration." He then requested they save the air horns for later.

June 14, 2011
Hayes Freedom graduates Corina Morgan, Andrew Jacobson, Tanner Wehring, Franciso Ponce and Samantha Thomas (left to right) celebrate following the presentation of the diplomas on Saturday.

Having the determination to succeed

If there was one theme that was weaved throughout the Hayes Freedom High School and Excelsior High School graduations this past week, it was that with the right guidance, determination to succeed, and a few strategically timed pushes along the way, goals that once didn't seem possible can be achieved. Hayes and Excelsior, the alternative high schools in the Camas and Washougal school districts, respectively, held commencement ceremonies that included tears, laughter and memories proud and challenging moments.

June 7, 2011
Choir members show off their first-place trophy from a recent festival. The group beat out several middle school choirs for the win.

Hitting the right notes

In some ways, the story of the Grass Valley Elementary School Vocal Jazz choir is the classic underdog tale. At the beginning of the year, nothing seemed to come together. The notes were flat. The students couldn't figure out what teacher Natalie Wilson wanted them to do. They lacked experience and stage presence. Fast forward eight months: The elementary school choir won the Northwest Vocal Jazz Festival middle school level competition, with high praise from the judges.