Getaways: Why Not Centralia? Why Not Now?
This weekend, why not make plans to attend Centralia’s JazzArtique festival?
What is a JazzArtique festival, I sense you asking, or at least on the brink of wondering. Well, it’s part jazz–this year the jazz headliner is Seattle’s Stephanie Porter. (Friday, she’s singing at Tula’s.) Tickets are $25 to $50. The show is Saturday at 7 p.m. in the historic Fox Theatre. The other part is antiques and art.
Centralia, Washington, is just off Interstate 5, a little over an hour-and-a-half south of Seattle, thanks to the 70-mph speed limit that kicks in down that direction. Most people will know of it from the Centralia Factory Outlets, but there is a historic downtown area that big-box stores and outlets have emptied out of major retailers. These days, the streets are lined with smaller enterprises selling vintage clothes, antiques, art, and tea.
JazzArtique combines the jazz music (“you can even bowl and skate to jazz tunes!”) with local artists showing their work in the shops. Rather than have everyone set up in a central gallery, there are small pop-up galleries to encourage visitors to drop in at each store. And live music is performed throughout the weekend on different stages.
I am told by the possibly award-winning proprietor of Okie Smokie BBQ (which, wonderfully, shares space with a quaint tea shop containing over 150 teas) that it’s quite a thing. You can spot his shop because it’s the one with a working smoker out front. The brisket, he says, takes about 16 hours preparation altogether. I wasn’t that hungry, but I wasn’t about to pass up Oklahoma-style brisket BBQ. Morsels of slightly chewy meat drowned in a flush-raising sauce–not veins-standing-out spicy, but with heat. Delicious.
You can also arrive in Centralia by Amtrak, of course. The 7:30 and 9:45 a.m. trains will get you there in plenty of time. (The trip is an Amtrak-theoretical 100 to 120 minutes.) Northbound, there are 5:57 and 7:47 p.m. trains. It’s $38 one-way (a mid-afternoon train is $22). The train station is one block off the “old town,” so it’s not like you’d need a car to get around.
Many towns like to throw around the word “historic,” but Centralia actually is. For one, it was founded by the son of a slave, named George Washington. It was also the site of a 1919 showdown between the American Legion and Wobblies that left six dead. In a historical segué, Clifford Cunningham was a special prosecutor at the resulting trial. Clifford, as of April 1919, was also the father of choreographer-to-be Merce Cunningham. That is why, if you run into New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay, you can ask him how he liked Centralia: In Seattle to review some ballet, he took a detour to the south to visit the town where Merce was born.
So go on, give Centralia a look.