Out Our Back Door By Tom Baake
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There’s Lots to Do As Busy Season Heats Up
By Tom Baake
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With part of its compliment of billowing sails unfurled, the Lady Washington cruises along the Coos Bay waterfront during last year’s visit. She’ll be joined by other colorful vessels at this year’s Coos Bay & North Bend Festival of Sail on June 1 to 4.

Two events coming up in June illustrate the variety of fun activities available to visitors and locals here on the South Coast. The events are also noteworthy for their resilience, having gone through changes and refinements over the years. They also seem to attract larger crowds every year.

That’s why I’m mentioning them a couple of weeks in advance, so people can start thinking about whether they want to participate, and make appropriate arrangements. In one case, there’s an actual financial advantage to planning ahead.

Festival of Sail

I got an update earlier this week from event organizer Tom Lahey of the Coos Bay Boatbuilding Center, who said as many as six historic replica sailing ships representing various time periods may take part in the June 1-4 event at the Mill Casino and Resort in North Bend. Among them will be the Revolutionary War-era replica ship Lady Washington, a frequent visitor during what’s become known as Tall Ship Days, joined in recent years by the replica packet ship Hawaiian Chieftain.

Under guidance these days by the Coos Bay Boatbuilding Center, the visits have evolved, each year incorporating new activities. This year’s ambitious plan is the first-ever Coos Bay & North Bend Festival of Sail, with organizers hoping that the two familiar ships will be joined by the 80-ft. gaff schooner Freda B, the 1939-era Dirigo II, and the Bill of Rights.

Also expected to join the flotilla at the Mill Casino is a 60-ft-tall inflatable rubber duck, an admitted “marketing ploy” that nevertheless a sure-fire crowd pleaser, according to organizer Lahey.

He noted another highlight is expected at 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, when the ships may line up by the airport and sail up to Coos Bay. All events are subject to the whims of the weather and a multitude of other factors, he added.

The festival is a way of to honor the area's history, he said. “We built more tall ships here than any port in Oregon. As an industry, it’s been largely overlooked.”

Current ticket prices range from $9 for a single-day, festival-only pass to $150 for an on-board sailing ticket on opening day. Multi-day passes are $20.

Volunteers are still being sought to help. You can get more information and a volunteer application at  http://festofsailcoosbay.com/

2017 Tour de Fronds XX

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year on Saturday, June 17, is the whimsically-named Tour de Fronds bike event in the beautiful forestlands around Powers. Earlier this week, I caught up with event organizer Donna Freeman, who said people have been a bit slow to sign up, which she suspects “had a little to do with the weather. People haven’t been able to ride and stay in condition as much.” Nevertheless, she’s optimistic since the event continues to draw new riders every year, as well as returning participants. She urged them to register before June 1, when passes for all events go up by $10.

Asphalt riders have options from 30 to 117 miles. There are two asphalt/gravel rides; a 72-mile adventure to the Rogue River and return, and a 55-mile challenging adventure ride past the world’s largest Port Orford Cedar. The surroundings are soothing and spectacular, the river waters crystal clear, the waterfalls robust, and the greenery “unlimited.”

In addition to attracting locals who tool along on a variety of self-propelled wheeled conveyances, the Tour de Fronds also brings in sophisticated bicyclists sporting the latest gear. Yet it remains a classic small-town event, sponsored by the Powers Lions Club, assisted by a loyal cadre of hardworking volunteers, and featuring homespun touches such as a pre-ride spaghetti feed on Friday night, a flapjack breakfast the next morning, and the post-ride lasagna feast. Rest stops along the way offer not just the usual water, drinks and snacks, but also homemade cookies, treats -- even live music!

Just driving up to Powers should put people in the mood, as many residences and ranches along the way sport colorfully-painted bicycles mounted on fenceposts and mailboxes, meant to welcome riders. The biking routes along Forest Service roads have also been getting some attention, since all were hard-hit by a rough winter; Donna said volunteers have been marking potholes and rough gravel spots, and will put up additional caution signs on the day of the event.

“We want people to be safe and have a great day,” she said.

Register and get more information at www.tourdefronds.com.

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