12 Years of the Inlander

by Michael Bowen & r & Sing along now, everybody! "In its first year of Christmas, The Inlander brought me ... 12 CDs singing ... 11 husbands shopping ... (in some parts we're truth-stretching)..." & r & Herewith, some snapshots of what The Inlander Elves were covering over the past dozen holiday seasons in our late-November Holiday Highlights issue.

1993 & r & Among the CDs we recommended: Melissa Etheridge, Yes I Am and the Pet Shop Boys, Very

Top-grossing movies: Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fugitive

Happy holiday-season movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas and Schindler's List

Late, lamented stores: Naturium (toys, NorthTown Mall); Xanadu (gifts, Southeast Boulevard); Twisted Lizard (products from Guatemala, North Monroe); Moon Bear Music (lots o' drums, at that time on North Division)

Stuff you can still buy today at the same location: The glow-in-the-dark Virgin Marys at Boo Radley's

1994 & r & Top-grossing films: Forrest Gump, The Lion King, True Lies, The Santa Clause, The Flintstones

Late and lamented: Salty's at the Falls

Another advertisement: "On stage at the Met for the very last time, the hilarious one-man play by Patrick F. McManus, A Fine and Pleasant Misery, starring Tim Behrens"

"I guess I should really get around to doing this" Dept.: We offered advice on what to do if you're feeling "disenchanted with the holidays": "Get the office together to make environmentally positive resolutions for the next year, such as: replacing incandescent lights with screw-in fluorescent bulbs ... [and] using brown paper towels instead of white."

1995 & r & The third annual Tree Lighting Ceremony focused on a "dazzling 63-foot-tall tree suspended above the intersection of Main and Wall streets," with entertainment by the Spokane Symphony Brass, the Spokane Children's Chorus and the Moko Jumbie Steel Drum Band. Washington Water Power provided an "Avenue of Lights" by illuminating 60 trees along Main Avenue from the Monroe Street Bridge to Washington Street.

Ghosts of Christmas Past: The Blackened Swordfish Sandwich at Birkebeiner Brewery on West Main; the Schade Brewery on East Trent provided "the Inland Empire's only year-round indoor public market"; you could get an authentic autographed portrait of a young, long-haired Brad Pitt at Legends in the Flour Mill; the Robin Marks Trio offered live jazz at Hobart's in Cavanaugh's Fourth Avenue Hotel.

1997 & r & The Disney on Ice show wasn't Finding Nemo but Pocahontas.

The downtown buzz was that Fugazzi, the Cavallino Lounge and Hotel Lusso were set to open in January '98 ... Huppin's was about to celebrate 90 years downtown ... Jim Kolva was restoring the Lambert Candy building, one block east of Carnegie Square, on Adams between the viaduct and First. It had been built in 1926 as Wells Chevrolet, but Kolva was walking his talk by developing it as apartments with lofts and a studio: "My ideal city would have all the amenities like art galleries, restaurants and movie theaters right in my neighborhood," he said.

Top 10 Singles Artists included No Doubt, Jewel, the Cardigans, Toni Braxton, the Wallflowers, Shawn Colvin and the Backstreet Boys

1998 & r & The Children's Museum offered a Winter Camp called "Kitchen Science" on Dec. 21-24, just in time for the littl'uns to experiment on Grandma's Christmas fruitcake and then blow it up.

In the annual 5K Run for Arthritis at the West Central Community Center, an "$18 Registration Fee or $25 in Pledges gets you a long-sleeve T-shirt and a pair of Jingle Bells."

For the second consecutive year, we wrote a feature article on a two-day event at the Gaiser Conservatory Arboretum in Manito Park: "15,000 lights, provided by the Friends of Manito," illuminating "that most popular of holiday blooms, euphorbia pulcherrima: the poinsettia, including ... more than 300 of these plants, ranging in size from half a foot to full-grown trees." Yep, we love our poinsettias.

"One knee-jerk reaction experienced by many downtowners watching shoppers gravitate to suburban malls is to attempt to out-mall those malls," wrote Ted S. McGregor Jr. in a commentary. So what makes downtowns memorable? "Certainly the large, national retailers provide the backbone, but the special amenities like green spaces and public art figure in. And high on the list has to be the presence of shops that reflect the local flavor."

1999 & r & Y2K fears: Would this be the end of Christmas as we knew it?

Paula Poundstone, doing standup at the Opera House, did a routine about trying to avoid dropping the F-bomb while around First Lady Hilary Clinton.

Eagle Hardware ran out of the 26-foot-length icicle lights; you could only get the 12-footers.

For an article on Christmas collectibles, Mike Corrigan coughed his way through an interview about those adorable Snowbabies, who "live in Frosty Frolic Land ... a miniature wonderland found on snowflakes." Department 56, you see, already had its own subcategory on eBay, which our editors felt needed to be identified as "the Internet auction house."

2000 & r & The Gingerbread House Showcase started at River Park Square: a silent auction of professionally designed houses as a benefit for the Ronald McDonald House, YWCA, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and the Woman in Transition Scholarship. For just $5, kids could decorate and take home their very own edible domiciles.

Local CD sales were dominated by U2, Outkast, Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, Marilyn Manson, Blink 182 and the soundtrack to Charlie's Angels

Movies: Tom Hanks in Cast Away; George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Mel Gibson in What Women Want

By adding a "North Pole" destination across the lake, the Coeur d'Alene Festival of Lights ramped up from the mere 250,000 lights of previous years to "more than one million lights, three miles of cable, at least 300 feet of scaffolding and a 3,000-pound steel wreath."

2001 & r & Dan Dickau was a senior; Ronny Turiaf was playing for the first time in the Kennel.

In one of our holiday-season essays, "Sophie Blaine" laughed over how, as a child, she presented her mother with "what resembled an order form rather than a wish list: Page 74 - Item K - Spirograph - Hasbro - $6.95 (make sure it's the new one, not the old one).

"I apparently had some trust issues with Santa."

As our former associate editor and a native of Denmark, Pia K. Hansen wrote about trading in the traditional Danish Christmas dish, roast goose, for a plain old American turkey -- while hanging onto the pickled herring, pork liver pate, and (yum!) blood sausage. And don't forget the hot, spiced red wine and aebleskivers.

Pumbaa on skates: Disney on Ice that year was, you guessed it, The Lion King.

2002 & r & From The Physics of Christmas: In order to throw presents down the chimneys of the 2.1 billion children on Earth, those reindeer would have to lug Santa's heavy guts more than 221 million miles, traveling at Mach 6,395. But that's just stupid -- on Christmas Eve, we've never even heard any sonic booms.

Sheri Boggs shared stories of the cranky customers and prank-loving coworkers during her years as a clerk at Auntie's Bookstore.

The Downtown Business Improvement District sponsored recreations of historic Crescent window displays from the 1940s through the '70s in storefronts at the Bon Marche, Auntie's, the Burlington Building and, appropriately enough, the Crescent Court.

Elmer Smoak -- known as "Santa Elmer" -- told about the time an 87-year-old woman insisted on sitting in his lap. How would she like a boyfriend for Christmas? "Well, OK," she replied, "but don't get me one that's too frisky."

2003 & r & Our Yuletide advice: Don't Force a Martha Stewart Christmas on People; Do Embellish the Holiday Letter; Don't Re-Gift to the Original Gift-Giver; Don't Get Involved in a Christmas Card War; Do Stock Up on Prozac.

Holiday movies: Mike Meyers in The Cat in the Hat; Hugh Grant in Love, Actually; Will Ferrell in Elf; Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa

For New Year's Eve, Northern Quest Casino presented ... Ms. Juice Newton! Three weeks earlier, the Star Theatre at the Spokane Arena had presented, in "Christmas From the Heart," ... Mr. Kenny Rogers!

Leah Sottile acknowledged the "heavy-handed synthesizers, wailing guitars and Michael Bolton-esque hairstyles" of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, then explained that "they have an audience all their own -- usually people who have more than a few Queen and Styx albums in their record collections."

2004 & r & Weather Report: Everybody still thought it might snow anytime. (Ha! In fact, it wasn't until January that enough of the white stuff fell to get any kind of winter sports season going.)

Must-Read: Sheri Boggs declared David Sedaris's collection of short stories Holidays on Ice the best holiday-themed book ever, quoting his line from "The Santaland Diaries," in which Sedaris goes undercover as an elf at Macy's: "After awhile, it was hard to tell where the retarded people ended and the regular New Yorkers began."

And finally, Mike Corrigan praised the effects of a good old-fashioned bolt of whiskey during the holidays: "You can get away with it like never before, too, all under the protective umbrella of 'engaging in good cheer.'"

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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