Go Out to the Ballgame -- There's no sound quite like the crack of the bat on a warm midsummer evening. Whether it's neighborhood kids or a field full of future major leaguers, baseball is a definitive summertime experience. A night at the ballpark is great fun for kids of all ages -- hot dogs never taste better than in the mild popcorn-scented air, and the players are practically within reach. Major league baseball may get all the glory, but for my money, the smaller community games are way more fun.
Locally, the 2003 Northwest League Champion Spokane Indians start defending their title on the road next week; the home opener is set for Monday, June 21, against Salem-Keizer, their opponents in last year's championship series. Fireworks will light up the sky on opening night, and the Mariner Moose comes to town the next night for the second in a five-game homestand. The Indians play a 38-game home schedule through early September, so there are plenty of chances to get out and root-root-root for the home team. Visit the Indians Ticket Office at Avista Stadium or call (509) 535-2922.
Another team getting underway are the Spokane RiverHawks, whose home season started last weekend at Spokane Falls Community College. After a road trip to Wenatchee, these regional college stars take to the home field again on Monday, June 14, at 5 pm against Langley. The RiverHawks compete in the semi-pro Pacific International League, and their season runs through early August. Tickets are just $5, and kids under 12 get in for free, making these games a great family entertainment bargain. Call 325-SEAT or visit the RiverHawks' Web site (spokaneriverhawks.com) for more information.
Of course, local Little League, Pony League and American Legion Baseball teams are well into their seasons, and it can be great fun to watch these young players hone their skills. And if you're looking for a place to take a full swing yourself, many area parks have baseball diamonds just waiting for a long-lost pickup game. Check with local parks and recreation departments for details and locations.
Watch the Granite Meet the Ice -- Let's face it -- there's something intriguing about a sporting event set in an ice arena during July. Curlers from across Canada and the U.S. converge on Nelson each July for a week-long tournament, or bonspiel, and the hosts at the Nelson Curling Club are happy to educate any visitors from south of the border in the joys of their sport. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Nelson Midsummer Bonspiel, the largest summer event of its kind.
For the uninitiated, curlers direct large polished granite stones down a long, narrow ice surface, aiming for the center of a circular target area or "house" at the far end. As the stone glides along the ice, two team members sweep the ice ahead of the stone, to help the stone move smoothly. The highest score goes to the team that gets closest to the center of the circle.
Strategy is important, but so are the social aspects of the game. The curlers enjoy camaraderie both on the ice and off, with special events scheduled all week long. And, of course, while you're in Nelson, there's lots of other fun stuff to do, too. Take the Heritage Walking Tour, try your hand at golf or water sports or visit local art galleries and see why Nelson was named one of the 100 Best Small Arts Towns in North America. For information about the bonspiel, contact the Nelson Curling Club at (250) 352-7628 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or check in with the Nelson Chamber of Commerce at discovernelson.com or (250) 352-3433.
Get the Goods at Green Bluff -- The Inland Northwest is rich with agricultural treasures, and one of the closest for anyone living in the Spokane area is beautiful Green Bluff. Strawberries are just about ready, signaling the start of the fruit season here in the shadow of Mount Spokane. Because of our early warm, dry spring this year, the fruit crops all appear ready to come in a week or two early, according to the folks at Beck's Harvest House in the heart of Green Bluff. Strawberry growers should be in full swing by the weekend of June 19-20 for the Strawberry Festival; raspberries are due by about July 1, with cherries coming on by about July 10. (Call ahead to see what's ripe.) The annual Cherry Pickers' Trot is set for Thursday, July 15, this year, and the festivities begin at 5:30 pm with the Cherry Pit Spit and the benefit Hamburger Dinner. (Those are two separate events, by the way.) During August, the luscious golden peaches are cause for celebration on three consecutive weekends, along with apricots and nectarines. Eat your way through summer, courtesy of the Green Bluff Growers Association, and remember -- fruit is healthy!
Take a Walk Through History -- This year marks the centennial for Manito Park, the crown jewel in Spokane's city parks system, so it's a perfect time for a stroll through the park. The Friends of Manito -- the people who will bring you their annual benefit plant sale on June 19 -- have planned a series of "Sunday in the Park" events monthly throughout this centennial summer to educate the public about the park and give local residents a good excuse to come out and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings.
This Sunday, June 13, Milo Ball and John Karwoski will lead a tour of the Nishinomiya Japanese Garden at 2 pm, discussing the plantings and the history of the garden. On July 11, Lynn Schaefer leads a tour of Rose Hill, complete with its new pergola; and August 8 brings a tour of Duncan Garden led by Steve Nokes. The blowout centennial celebration is set for Saturday, August 14, and will feature an old-fashioned ice cream social. Contact Judy Nelson at TFM for details: 456-8038 or email@example.com.
But you don't need a schedule to enjoy Manito. Just grab a few minutes out of your busy schedule and take a stroll around the pond, wander through the Joel E. Ferris Perennial Gardens or follow the Loop Road for a spectacular view. A walk around Manito is always good for the soul.