Arts and Entertainment

HIDDEN KITSAP/Suquamish gets ready for the spotlight

It’s the quintessential trip to hidden Kitsap.

A quirky cultural oasis found along winding, wooded roads a few miles off Highway 305, between Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island. Tucked back from the bright neon sign that announces your east end arrival to the Port Madison Indian Reservation, there’s a charmingly old-school, modern-day village amidst a structural and economic renaissance in the unincorporated North Kitsap community of Suquamish.

This coming week — as the 20th annual Pacific Northwest Tribal Canoe Journeys culminate there Aug. 3-8 — Suquamish and that renaissance will be in the spotlight.

“Everybody’s saying, ‘are you ready?’” downtown business owner Bob Rowden of Bella Luna Pizzeria said. More than 12,000 visitors are expected by both land and sea. “And I go... I don’t think anybody is gonna be truly ‘ready.’”

Bella Luna is one of a few intensely local businesses and one of three eateries along the business-and-shore-lined cul-de-sac which will be at the epicenter of the canoe journeys spectacle.

Perched on the waterfront, just up the shore from the new 526-foot community dock built in 2008, with an incredible menu, Bella Luna was also a fitting jumping off point for a Hidden Kitsap excursion to Suquamish, both in honor of the renaissance and in advance of the canoe journeys.

It started off innocently enough. “A Night in Suquamish,” aiming to appreciate the local culture and the resurgence of the reservation’s downtown core. But the evening quickly evolved into an outlandish odyssey.

Following a few fantastic slices of pizza at Bella Luna, someone in the group suggests we go double our beer money with a quick trip to the casino. Horrible idea. That will never work, I say. But we go anyway.

The Spazmatics, a nerd-core, cover-song dance band energized a full house in the Beach Rock Lounge, while the game floor buzzed with an amalgamation of winners and losers, gamblers and boozers.

While aiming for the latter category, I found myself plunked in the second as we exited the grand entrance, nearly each member of the group dejected and about $20 poorer.

Still we traveled back to the cul-de-sac for a round of commiserative beers at the Trawler Inn.

We bellied up to the bar for a round of PBRs in cans.

Those type of beverages and some of the Trawler’s regulars harken back to the rough-and-tumble days of downtown Suquamish when there was little more on the cul-de-sac than two taverns sitting across the street from one another: The Tides Inn and the Tides Out.

The place has mellowed out since those days, they say, with the restaurants (Bella Luna and the more upscale Agate Pass Café), an art gallery and bead store, along with the tribal longhouse and dock, all fairly new to the block.

It seems that all the pieces have been put in place over the past decade just in time for the town to take center stage.

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