Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wedding, Wind & Fire

This past weekend was the oddest rollercoaster I’ve been a part of.  Between fires, road closures, power, water & phone outages, we managed to pull off a beautiful celebration of the Bride and Groom.

The weekend started out like any other.  Load up the truck, pick up Agnes, she was the photographer, check the road conditions and get moving.  We made it into Chelan at 3:30, two hours prior to the scheduled rehearsal.  As we arrived the fire that had begun earlier that morning had made it’s way down Chelan Butte, threatening homes and other structures.  Helicopters were circling overhead, dropping water on the flames.  Water bombers skimmed across the surface of the lake, sucking up 1600 gallons of water to douse the raging fire.

As we went through town, on the way to my families home above the North Shore, life carried on.  “We’re not even at a level one” said a local, as if a 20,000 acre fire visible from main street is the norm.  People were lined up at the Lakeview, hoping to get a bucket of fries before the fire knocked out power to town of 5,000.  Mini golf was being played and jet skiers were on the lake.

Soon, that would all change.

View from the house

We arrived at the house, made our greetings and unpacked the truck.  Then one of the water bombers buzzed the house.  They had been using a landmark, perhaps even our house, as their exit point from the lake.

Then the messages started pouring in from the Bride and other members of the wedding party.  “The road to the winery is closed, the rehearsal has been moved to 10am tomorrow, see you at Campbell’s for the dinner!”  OK, no problem, we can chat about the wedding timeline at the rehearsal.

Then the power goes out.

Agnes gets a text from her friend, the Matron of Honor, to come meet at Campbell’s for a drink before the dinner.  They have power and the Hawks game will be on soon.   We get ready and head to town.

Smoke in town

Downtown is clouded in a haze of smoke, the smell of campfire permeates the air, ash is falling on our heads. I pull into the gas station, I wanted to top off just in case we had to evacuate, and their power drops out.
No gas for you!

We drive to Campbell’s and are greeted by an employee “are you here for the wedding?  We’ve had to cancel the dinner, but the food is already cooked, we’ll box it up for you.”  Alright, this isn’t getting any better, but let’s keep our hopes up.  The firefighters have always done a tremendous job, they’ll have this out tonight and power will be back in the morning.  We head back to the house, our friends in tow, to enjoy our box dinner, have a few drinks and watch the fire suppression work on the lake.

Later, our friends get a text from other wedding guests that the town is threatened and that people are leaving Campbell’s, not an evacuation in any official sense, but a voluntary clearing of the property.  They head back to the resort, pack up their things and stay the night in the bunkroom at our house.

Chelan Butte Fire

The silence of life without electricity on the outskirts of a small town is deafening. It’s always quiet here at night, but not this quiet.  The hum of the fridge is gone, the ice machine isn’t dropping ice every 30 minutes, and the soothing sound of the HVAC running is gone.  You feel like you have to make noise just so you know you’re still there.

Morning comes, no alerts from the outside world, no one banging on the door to get us out and no flames on the hillside around us.  Across the water the scorched earth reaches all the way to the shoreline.  The house we had been watching the night before is still standing, everything around it burned.  The roads into Chelan are closed, the road to the winery is also closed and the smoke in the air is thickening.  Power remains out along with landline and cell phone service, except for Verizon.  KOZI, the local radio station isn’t broadcasting, their tower a victim to the flames.

Texts begin coming in from the Bride, the 10AM rehearsal certainly isn’t happening.  “The winery is OK, but without power or water. The coordinator is going to check it out and see what we can do.  Will update.”  That update comes hours later  “we’re moving the wedding to Bauer’s Landing in Orondo.”

My first thought is “can I make this work, is it a venue or a house, or something altogether different, will there be power, will I have to carry my gear up and down 10 flights of stairs?” and finally “I can’t do anything about it, just gotta get there.”

We get ready, take our cold “Navy” showers, that’s where you rinse with what warm water you have, turn off the water, lather up and then rinse with the cold water that remains.  Pack the car up, again, and hit the road.

The shorter route to the new location is, of course, closed so we have to drive the 75 minutes back through Wenatchee to reach Orondo on the opposite side of the Lake Entiat.  Every gas station we pass on the South shore of Chelan, they still had power, has a line at least 10 cars deep.  I have enough, I think, to make it to Wenatchee hoping that the lines will be shorter the further we get away from Chelan.  I was wrong, the line at the Entiat Shell was even longer and blocking the espresso stand next door.  Sorry, no coffee fix for you.

We make it to Bauer’s Landing, a small lakefront community in Orondo after stopping for gas and a bite in Wenatchee.  We meet an Aunt of the Bride at their place and they direct us down the street to another “new” venue, this time a beautiful house on the lake.  This isn’t a house of the family of the Bride or Groom, just some neighbors and friends that heard about the original plan falling apart and offering up their home so that the Bride and Groom can have the wedding of their dreams.

We arrived, in standard Rob Everett style, just after all the guys had finished bringing in all the tables and chairs and done most of the work.  Rio Vista, the original venue, had packed all their wedding supplies, tables, chairs, flatware, glassware, and, of course, the wine and beer in a truck and hauled it to this house!  We got a tour and talked about how we would be setting up.  Ceremony on the beach, reception in the backyard and dancing on the deck.  The same guys who had been working their tails off to set this up in just a few hours rushed to my truck “what can we carry?”  The sense of family, team, we’re in this together, had taken over everyone.  We’re giving these people a wedding, dammit!

Ceremony on the beach. Photo: Aga Kownacka Photography

There were some technical challenges to overcome, the ceremony was a lot further from power than we had prepared for, no problem, Father of the Bride is an electrical contractor.  The dancefloor and where I was set up was on the opposite side of the house from the dinner.  Also, not a problem, I always have a backup speaker in the truck.  So I set that up near the dinner, run a couple XLR cables back to my main board and voila! Music and a mic for toasts at the dinner 60 feet away.

Backyard Dinner

The rest of the night goes smoothly, it’s nice to have some normalcy return after the previous 24 hours of chaos.  The guests drink, we eat chicken, some people say some nice words and toast the couple, the family and the family that opened their home to us on this very hectic weekend.  We dance, we laugh and we say goodbye.

By the time we’re leaving the shorter route back to Chelan has reopened.  We had originally planned to drive back to Seattle after the wedding, especially if the road was closed and the power was still out.  We had changed our minds, while the energy of the evening was off the charts, once the music was off we were beat.  Let’s just get to Chelan and sleep.

The drive home was creepy, like how slasher movies start.  Driving down unlit roads through a fog of smoke, passing a reader board that said “fire activity ahead, no stopping” made me second guess my decision.  Where the smoke wasn’t as thick you could see fire’s up on the hillsides and occasionally pass a firetruck with it’s lights on, otherwise it was black except for the gray haze illuminated by my headlights.

We passed the Walmart outside of town, still appearing to be evacuated, no power.  As we made it over the hill into town we begin to see some lights, the power’s back!  It’s past midnight now, I don’t think the hardware store is open, but their neon “open” sign is flashing.  The power had gone out yesterday at 4PM when they were “open.”

I don’t get too excited for this, I remember that we lost power at the house before the city, so we may very well be without power.  That is not the case, we make the turn past Darnell’s, the place with the big neon D and our old vacation spot and see the hill is lit up.  Yes! Hot showers!

This was definitely the most challenging wedding work I have done, but in the end everyone pulled together and we were able to put on a great celebration for a very deserving couple.
The smoke settled in Sunday
The Casino reopened, everything is going to be OK

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post on wedding! Thanks for sharing this post dear. Personally I love indoor weddings. For my wedding party I am thinking to book a domestic event space Chicago. Do you have any reviews about this place?