NORTH BEND — A group of local veterans has done it again as they pulled off another successful year hosting the 8th annual Veterans and Spouse Art and Craft Show this month at the Pony Village Mall in North Bend.
Event director Vern Barlow, a Vietnam veteran, said this year the show featured over 60 veterans each displaying their own unique, handcrafted items. The show, which ends Nov. 26, focuses on veterans and their journeys toward self-healing through their artwork.
“A lot of veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder and this is something we can do to help,” Barlow said. “We can talk to one another in the same language and relate.”
At the show, two memorial tables were set up as added ways for organizers to pay tribute. This year, one of the displays featured a fallen soldiers table, which showcased items significant to those who have served.
It also featured a WWII Army Ike Jacket from the 70th Division Trailblazers, a unit headquartered at Camp Adair, Oregon. While admission to enter the show was free, donations were encouraged to help fund for next year’s display.
“I spent about $265 out of my own pocket to put this on,” Barlow said. “It’s important to do this and to honor veterans.”
According to Barlow, about three years ago they decided to add spouses’ artwork to the event as a way to acknowledge and thank them for their sacrifices as well. The show included wood-carved items, paintings, cross-stitched embroidery as well as drawings and other handcrafted creations.
In the show, Barlow also featured his own pen and ink drawings of antique barns, cars and lighthouses. He began drawing over 10 years ago as a way to refocus and remain present.
Event staff Andy Whyte joined Barlow in displaying his own craftwork, which included embroidery designs that he makes alongside his wife, Gevon. Whyte said he began the hobby about five years ago and estimated he’s done over a hundred of them to date.
The Army veteran, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, said the show has grown into a great event that not only promotes veterans’ work, but also builds new friendships and brotherhood.
“We are not an official organization or company,” Whyte said. “We all do this because we want to work together and just have a good time.”
The final day for the show will be on Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the lower level of the Pony Village Mall at 1611 Virginia Ave.
COOS BAY — Eastside Elementary is now a pile of rubble and debris.
It is the first visible sign of movement from the Coos Bay School District’s approved $59.9 million BEST Bond.
“Demolition happened quickly when they started,” said Superintendent Bryan Trendell.
Eastside was demolished on Nov. 5 by Johnson Rock. Trendell laughed when he talked about it because he was amazed that it happened so fast.
“It took the crew all day, but it happened rapidly,” he said. “It took the rest of the week to haul off the material, remove the concrete and steel rebar and now they are crushing that up and putting it in the hole where the cafeteria was so we end up with a nice, flat piece of property when it comes time to start the building process.”
While the demolition was happening, students from Millicoma Middle School watched during recess.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if 10 to 15 years from now we have a lot of heavy equipment operators from that group who saw it happen,” Trendell said. “But Johnson Rock did an outstanding job. They did it very professionally and with the least amount of impact at Millicoma.”
According to Trendell, site preparation will continue between now and when the new building goes up, which is expected to begin in the spring.
“We submitted plans to the City of Coos Bay,” he said. “Those were approved. Now we move forward with permits to do the building.”
After the New Year, the district will put out bids for contractors and subcontractors.
“Hopefully the weather will cooperate so construction can start late April or early May,” Trendell said.
Once the new building starts to go up, Trendell said construction will continue through the summer, next school year and through most of the following summer.
“We hope those doors will open in the fall of 2020,” he said.
The finished Eastside Elementary building is to become the new home for every student at Blossom Gulch Elementary, moving students to a safer and modern schoolhouse.
Until the demolition happened earlier this month, Trendell admitted that progress with the bond construction seemed to drag on.
“But behind the scenes, things were happening,” he said. “We will have a lull now that demolition is complete and are waiting on bids. Once construction starts, I see things moving quickly again.”
As for saying goodbye to the old Eastside Schoolhouse, Trendell said it was hard for some.
“There are folks out there with close emotional ties to that old Eastside building,” he said. “On one hand it was sad to see it go, but on the other it is exciting to have something new. From a community standpoint, it’s very positive.”
Since becoming superintendent, one of his goals was to improve the buildings in the district. Seeing work finally get started is what he described as “gratifying.”
“I look forward to the rest of the projects,” he said. “This is one step in the journey. I look forward to the day when we’re completed with the whole thing and operating in quality facilities.”
It's been more than a century since sea otters were hunted to near extinction along the U.S. West Coast. The cute animals were successfully reintroduced along the Washington, British Columbia and California coasts, but an attempt to bring them back to Oregon in the early 1970s failed.
Now a new nonprofit has formed to try again.
"For about 110 years now, there's been a big hole in our environment," said Peter Hatch, a Siletz tribal member living in Corvallis. "The sea otter has been missing from the Oregon Coast."
Hatch recently joined the board of a new nonprofit dedicated to bringing the sea otter back to Oregon waters. The group is named the Elakha Alliance — "elakha" is the Clatsop-Chinookan word for sea otter.
"We are very heartened by the idea that sea otters could be brought back to this part of the coast, brought back to make their range whole again and to make this place whole again," Hatch said in an interview at a bluff overlooking the ocean in Newport.
He pointed out to sea toward Otter Rock, where a hunter killed one of the last wild Oregon sea otters for its fur more than a century ago, Hatch said. At one time, a soft, luxurious sea otter robe would have been among the most valuable possessions a Siletz person could own, he mused.
Hatch said other people are excited by the prospect of reintroducing the otters. Sea otters contribute to healthy kelp forests by eating sea urchins, and bring balance to the nearshore ecosystem he said. Hatch believes they would be great "ambassadors" for the Oregon Coast.
But excitement is not the unanimous response.
"The notion of full-scale reintroduction of otters makes me feel very apprehensive because we don't know how that will affect commercial fisheries," said Newport crabber Bob Eder.
Eder said he is mindful that sea otters have remarkable charisma. But they're also known for their big appetites and a diet that includes Dungeness crab.
Eder's concerned that reintroduction could change his industry.
"Unlike the crab fishermen, (the otters) don't take just the large mature males that have already reproduced," Eder said in an interview at the bayfront. "They take the females. They eat indiscriminately."
The director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission made the same points in a separate interview last week. Dungeness crab represents the single most valuable commercial fishery in Oregon.
"We need to really study this because we may be displacing one mammal — fishermen — with the reintroduction of another," Eder said.
Elakha Alliance Board Chair Bob Bailey predicts that 100 reintroduced otters would make a negligible difference for the overall commercial harvest.
A lab at Oregon State University's marine science center in Newport is currently studying whether society and the marine environment are ready for sea otter reintroduction. Masters student Dominique Kone is examining ocean conditions.
"Is there suitable habitat?" Kone asked. "Is there enough prey? Because we know sea otters are constantly eating because of their high metabolism."
Kone's initial assessment is that some spots off the coast, particularly the southern Oregon Coast, look pretty good.
Kone said he would look for any lessons to be learned from the earlier reintroduction effort in Oregon. His graduate advisor, OSU professor Leigh Torres, said it is something of a mystery why the 1970s reintroduction did not succeed in Oregon as it did in Washington and California.
"What's interesting about that previous, failed reintroduction effort is that otters were doing well to begin with for the first couple of years," Torres said. "They were feeding, actually having pups and doing well. Then they sort of split town and just weren't seen again."
The founder and director of the new Elakha Alliance guesses it could take many years to get the green light to reintroduce sea otters along Oregon's coast.
"We are very early in the game," Bailey said. "We haven't even really scoped out the 'What would it take' type of discussion, the logistics. Where would these animals come from? Where would they go? What would the impacts be?"
Bailey organized a one-day symposium in Newport last month with scientists, agencies, tribal representatives and interested citizens to talk about the existing state of the science. He said the next step is to draw up a strategic plan for how the Elakha Alliance should proceed.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meanwhile, are noncommittal.
A USFWS spokeswoman said many public meetings lie ahead if the reintroduction idea gains momentum. Federal biologists who are monitoring the sea otters along the Washington and central California coasts say those populations are healthy, but they are not colonizing Oregon on their own.
"There's more support for active reintroduction than waiting for natural dispersal," concluded Danielle Moser, wildlife program coordinator for the environmental group Oregon Wild, after attending the Elakha Alliance science symposium last month. "The sentiment was that active reintroduction is needed if we want sea otters in Oregon anytime soon."
The current Washington state population of around 2,000 animals stems from 59 sea otters that were relocated to the Olympic Peninsula coast from Alaska's Aleutian Islands in 1969 and 1970. Washington's sea otters are now spread out between Point Grenville on the Quinault Reservation and Pillar Point in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Occasionally, one or two Washington sea otters are spotted exploring Oregon waters, but those wandering animals have not stayed.
This fall, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport launched a capital campaign to expand its sea otter holding facilities and build a marine mammal rehabilitation center.
Both of those would be useful for a sea otter reintroduction campaign if one is eventually launched. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is currently home to three sea otters that rank among its most popular exhibits.
NEW YORK — It would have been easy to turn on their computers at home over plates of leftover turkey and take advantage of the Black Friday deals most retailers now offer online.
But across the country, thousands of shoppers flocked to stores on Thanksgiving or woke up before dawn the next day to take part in this most famous ritual of American consumerism.
Shoppers spent their holiday lined up outside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, by 4 p.m. Thursday, and the crowd had swelled to 3,000 people by the time doors opened at 5 a.m. Friday. In Ohio, a group of women was so determined, they booked a hotel room Thursday night to be closer to the stores. In New York City, one woman went straight from a dance club to a department store in the middle of the night.
Many shoppers said Black Friday is as much about the spectacle as it is about doorbuster deals.
Kati Anderson said she stopped at Cumberland Mall in Atlanta on Friday morning for discounted clothes as well as "the people watching." Her friend, Katie Nasworthy, said she went to the mall instead of shopping online because she likes to see the Christmas decorations.
"It doesn't really feel like Christmas until now," said Kim Bryant, shopping in suburban Denver with her daughter and her daughter's friend, who had lined up at 5:40 a.m., then sprinted inside when the doors opened at 6 a.m.
Brick-and-mortar stores have worked hard to prove they can counter the competition from online behemoth Amazon. From Macy's to Target and Walmart, retailers are blending their online and store shopping experience with new tools like digital maps on smart phones and more options for shoppers to buy online and pick up at stores. And customers, frustrated with long checkout lines, can check out at Walmart and other stores with a salesperson in store aisles.
Consumers nearly doubled their online orders that they picked up at stores from Wednesday to Thanksgiving, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks online spending.
Priscilla Page, 28, punched her order number into a kiosk near the entrance of a Walmart in Louisville, Kentucky. She found a good deal online for a gift for her boyfriend, then arrived at the store to retrieve it.
"I've never Black Friday-shopped before," she said, as employees delivered her bag minutes later. "I'm not the most patient person ever. Crowds, lines, waiting, it's not really my thing. This was a lot easier."
The holiday shopping season presents a big test for a U.S. economy, whose overall growth so far this year has relied on a burst of consumer spending. Americans upped their spending during the first half of 2018 at the strongest pace in four years, yet retail sales gains have tapered off recently. The sales totals over the next month will be a good indicator as to whether consumers simply paused to catch their breath or feel less optimistic about the economy in 2019.
The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, is expecting holiday retail sales to increase as much as 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $720.89 billion. The sales growth marks a slowdown from last year's 5.3 percent, but remains healthy.
The retail economy is also tilting steeply toward online shopping. Over the past 12 months, purchases at non-store retailers such as Amazon have jumped 12.1 percent as sales at traditional department stores have slumped 0.3 percent. Adobe Analytics reported Thursday that Thanksgiving reached a record $3.7 billion in online retail sales, up 28 percent from the same year ago period. For Black Friday, online spending was on track to hit more than $6.4 billion, according to Adobe.
Target reported that shoppers bought big ticket items like TVs, iPads, and Apple Watches. Among the most popular toy deals were Lego, L.O.L. Surprise from MGA Entertainment and Mattel's Barbie. It said gamers picked up video game consoles like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.
Black Friday itself has morphed from a single day when people got up early to score doorbusters into a whole month of deals. Plenty of major stores including Macy's, Walmart and Target started their deals on Thanksgiving evening. But some families are sticking by their Black Friday traditions.
"We boycotted Thursday shopping; that's the day for family. But the experience on Friday is just for fun," said Michelle Wise, shopping at Park Meadows Mall in Denver with her daughters, 16-year-old Ashleigh and 14-year-old Avery.
By mid-day Friday, there had not been widespread reports of the deal-inspired chaos that has become central to Black Friday lore — fist fights over discounted televisions or stampedes toward coveted sale items.
"It seems pretty normal in here," said Roy Heller, as he arrived at the Louisville Walmart, a little leery of Black Friday shopping, but pleasantly surprised to find that he didn't even have to stand in line.
He had tried to buy his son a toy robot on Amazon, but it was sold out. Friday morning, he frantically searched the internet and found one single robot left, at a Walmart 25 miles from his home. He bought it online and arrived an hour later to pick it up.
Employees delivered his bag, he held it up and declared: "I got the last one in Louisville!"