Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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Stay Dry With Plenty of Indoor Activities and Fun
By Tom Baake
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A visitor checks out an exhibit at the Coos History Museum in Coos Bay. The museum will offer free admission this Sunday as well as a free activities program for youngsters from 1 to 3 p.m.

The combination of drenching rain, mushy snow and biting wind doesn’t inspire extensive outdoor activity. Fortunately there’s a plethora of indoor diversions – at least in the North Bend/Coos Bay area -- details of many of which are listed elsewhere in this edition.

A case could also be made for declaring this weekend as the unofficial start of fairs and festivals season with the 28th annual South Coast Clambake Music Festival set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Mill Casino in North Bend. The little festival with such humble beginnings at a handful of colorful local venues is all grown up now, and features mostly-imported professional talent in settings large and small at one locale, all blessedly smoke-free and a blast, well worth the admission. The festival also attracts lots of dancers, and even if you don’t partake it’s great fun to watch the folks who obviously spend a lot of time practicing their moves. It’s almost like another show going on while the musicians perform. (They also offer lessons between shows.) Get details at www.clambakejazz.com

Get free admission to the Coos History Museum this Sunday, March 12. There will also be free hands-on crafts and activities for youngsters in the museum’s Sprague Gallery from 1 to 3 p.m. They have other special events and on-going programs; check out www.cooshistory.org for details.

This weekend’s list of potential rain-avoidance activities might also include attending the monthly geology talk at Southwestern Oregon Community College. Beginning at 7 p.m. this Friday at the Hales Center for the Performing Arts on the SWOCC campus, Dr. Scott Burns of Portland State University will discuss “Terroir of the Wine Country of Southern Oregon.” Note I said terroir not terror; pronounced “ter wahr,” it refers to the characteristics of a region – soils, rainfall, climate, etc. – that influence the way grapes grow.

This is indeed a departure from the usual fare of lectures on such prosaic subjects as coastal erosion and the much-predicted next big earthquake, but as anyone who’s seen grapes grow can attest to, there’s definitely a geology connection. And it’s a great way to grab peoples’ attention for what otherwise might sound like a humdrum choice -- a lecture at the college, for heaven’s sake.

However, as I’ve pointed out previously, the geo-lectures might seem like a nerdy thing to do on a perfectly good Friday (or sometimes Saturday night), but on more than one occasion the place has been packed! That’s 500 people, with folks perched in the aisles! So no, not just for nerds. . .

Music aficionados can enjoy internationally-renowned pianist Alina Kiryayeva at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 11 at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, as part of the Coos County Community Concert Association performances. Details at www.cccca.com.

If the weather lets up, you can go with members of the Cape Arago Audubon Society for a birding field trip beginning at 10 a.m. this Saturday at the Millicoma Marsh Trails in Coos Bay’s Eastside district. I realize this is an outdoor activity, but the trails are short and you can easily bail out if there’s a deluge.

The MilIicoma Marsh is considered one of the top bird-watching spots in the region, and the setting is interesting as well. Trails go along on the top of levees, and there are sweeping views of the bay and surrounding forestlands. It’s open all year during daylight; entry is free.    

Speaking of wetlands and such, the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve near Charleston has a year-round schedule of intriguing activities, many geared to families and youngsters. They also work in conjunction with the new Charleston Marine Life Center and adjacent Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, with presentations, workshops and special events. They’re usually well publicized in the Shopper, and you can also check out their website at http://www.oregon.gov/dsl/SS/Pages/About.aspx (or just do a web search for South Slough).

For more things to do, check out the calendar at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s website,

 http://coosbaynorthbendcharlestonchamber.com/events/. So here’s hoping you find some nice dry fun and may the monsoons miss you!

(Shopper columnist Tom Baake is author of regional guidebooks.) 
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