The Edmonds Waterfront Center finally got the grand opening event it deserves, as a crowd of more than 500 gathered Thursday to officially open the doors to Edmonds’ new premier community nexus, gathering place and source of community pride.
“COVID robbed us of our grand opening and ribbon cutting last March,” said Waterfront Center CEO Daniel Johnson. “Rick Steves hosted a virtual tour as a consolation prize, but there was still a hunger for a traditional gala. Even though we opened some programs over the months as COVID allowed, we still wanted to do a real celebration, a family reunion, an event to bring everyone – and I mean everyone – together. Today is that day.”
The ceremonies began with traditional Native American songs and blessings led by Coast Salish woodcarver, artist, and cultural expert Ty Juvinel, joined by Josh Fryberg
“These songs are powerful,” explained Juvinel. “We offer them to help this facility gain its spirituality.”
This was followed by another Coast Salish tradition, a gift exchange in which Juvinel presented CEO Daniel Johnson with a ceremonial canoe paddle and a scale model of a welcoming sculpture — currently being carved by Juvinel — depicting a grandmother passing along a rattle to her grandchild and symbolizing both a homage to mothers and the passing of culture from one generation to the next. Juvinel is still at work on the final 15-foot sculpture, which when completed will grace the Waterfront Center lobby.
This was followed by a flag raising, complete with color guard and bagpipe music.
“We’ve held off raising the flag in front of the center until this day,” added Johnson. “We wanted to wait and do it right.”
The group then moved inside to the main gathering room, where Johnson welcomed the attendees and acknowledged all sponsors, the board of directors, donors and all the community members who made the new center possible.
He began by quoting the Waterfront Center capital campaign co-chair — Rose Cantwell — who famously observed that “Our society has segregated our population by age – young families here, retirees there… We had it wrong.”
Johnson went on to point out that this observation has provided direction and indeed become part of the DNA of the Waterfront Center.
“The Waterfront Center will stand as promise kept and an example of what our elders are capable of,” Johnson continued. “The center is designed to help people live better – longer. The Senior Center has evolved into the Waterfront Center – a healing place with the best views, a restaurant, health and wellness center, art gallery, a teaching kitchen, and classrooms that offer dynamic classes and activities.”
Next to the podium was Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, who spoke of the “goodness to the community” that the Waterfront Center brings. He was followed by Waterfront Center Board President Julaine Fleetwood, who told of how after 25 years of volunteering in Edmonds she feels she has found her home at the center and its vision for making the center “a place for all ages.”
Returning to the podium, Daniel Johnson announced a last-minute change in plans – the ribbon-cutting ceremony that all were expecting would become something new: a ribbon joining ceremony!
“There will be three ribbons that will stretch over the entire audience,” he began. “The first represents those who helped us get here, from the original Coast Salish inhabitants of this land to our present-day donors, volunteers, and others. The second commemorates the milestone we celebrate today. The third is for the future potential of this space in the lives of our children and their children.”
The ribbons were then unfurled over the room, with the audience participating by touching and passing the ribbons over their head, symbolizing the joining of community that the Waterfront Center represents.
Former Edmonds mayor and Capital Campaign Chair Gary Haakenson was next to speak.
“I’m so thankful for the vision of Farrell Fleming (former Senior Center Executive Director) and Rose Cantwell (former board member and capital campaign co-chair),” he began. “I wish they could be here today to see this. They had the vision to push this forward, and I know they’d be pleased to see the ongoing efforts on the board, staff and others who implement their vision every day.”
Then it was time for keynote speaker and major contributor to — and booster for — the Waterfront Center, Rick Steves.
“We should be so proud of this building,” he began. “It’s the brick and mortar that allows us to come together as a community. And it’s for everyone. We’re not siloing our seniors away, but rather including them – and indeed all members of our community – in the greater whole. It’s like an Italian piazza – a gathering place for all, old, young, rich and poor.
“We’ve waited a long time for this moment,” he continued. “But thanks to a dream team of dedicated folks, we now have a bedrock facility that embodies the beauty of our community and gives it a physical place to have real traction. It’s an accessible place that’s open to all, where caring people who don’t necessarily have a lot of money can get together and organize, gather, bond as a community, and show our love. Winter, summer, rain, or shine, this is where we’re going to gather. I’m so proud and thankful to have been part of making it a reality.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel