Full of Dutch heritage, adorable Lynden, WA is just a short drive from Bellingham, only two hours from Seattle and five miles from the Canadian border at Aldergrove. The whole family can appreciate the arts year round in this cute little hamlet. Music, dance, stage productions, fine arts and crafts and an entire museum of Dutch heritage await. My kids and I have visited beautiful, tree-lined Front Street often to explore this cute town and all it has to offer a couple times each year. Surrounded by charming antique stores, a bakery, and cozy mom-and-pop restaurants, everyone is sure to find something to enjoy.
The Dutch began immigrating to Lynden in the 1890’s and the area has since become Washington State’s largest Dutch community. From murals of people wearing Dutch traditional clothing, Dutch colonial buildings on Front Street, to Mill Inn’s 72-foot windmill, this quaint little village is a fun day trip or weekend excursion. Here are just a few of our favorite arts-related activities throughout the year.
Jansen Art Center
I spoke with Jansen Art Center‘s Amelia Chirichigno to get the low down on the vast array of music and dance performance, and fine art, ceramics, textile and jewelry classes and exhibits at Jansen Art Center.
When you’re in Lynden, plan to stroll through Jansen’s fine art exhibitions on the main floor and in the second floor library. These change quarterly and include both solo exhibitions and juried collections of multiple artists.
You can catch live music performances on Wednesdays at lunch time and on Thursday evenings in the Jansen cafe. A variety of performers share their favorites on piano, guitar, singer songwriters, often jazz and soul. Thursday evening is also when you might participate in a Paint and Wine night, where groups of friends paint in the style of a famous artist or era, such as flowers in the style of Georgia O’Keeffe or or the Goldfish of Matisse. Visitors can also participate in a host of one- and two-day classes in fine art, painting, ceramics, watercolor, weaving and textiles, jewelry-making and even the art of bonsai. Jansen also offers child and teen classes and four- and six-week classes in these subjects as well.
Northwest Ballet Academy and other local dancers use Jansen as a performance space so, if you’re lucky, you just might catch local periodic productions of classics like The Nutcracker and other contemporary dance performance too.
Their Ceramics Studio includes potter’s wheels, electric and gas kilns, and plenty of table room for sculpture, hand building, glazing and decorating.
If you’re feeling creative, or just want to be inspired by the work of local artists, stop by Jansen Tuesday through Saturday to be inspired by the variety presented by Lynden area artists.
Lynden Pioneer Museum
My favorite books as a kid were from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House Series set in the late 1800’s. Life then seemed so simple, yet so tough and wild at the same time. I got that same feeling all over again when I took my tweens to the eclectic Lynden Pioneer Museum. Whether you’re a kid who can’t imagine life before cell phones, a collector or hobbyist, or just needing a reminder of those stories your parents and grandparents once told you, you’ll relish this quirky museum’s collection of more than 37,000 historical objects. Insider Hilary Parker has written more about this fascinating look into local history with her family.
What southern British Columbians might not realize are the tremendous similarities between their family and business history and Lynden’s. Back in the late 1800s, people traveled freely back and forth across the border. Our history and theirs are intertwined. It wasn’t until prohibition in the 1920’s that travel and trade became restricted.
Organized into three major areas, you can explore the homestead and barnyard exhibit, portraying the daily life of Lynden’s first settlers. Exhibits in this area also include the early logging and milling operations that eventually shifted toward the dairy, egg, and poultry farming that have supported Lynden’s economy over the last 100 years.
Wandering downstairs you’ll find a collection of more than 54 horse-drawn vehicles and related tack, a few antique cars in fantastic shape, and a host of brightly lit scale model cars.
Perhaps half of the main floor and the entire second story are occupied by 22 historic shop fronts arranged as a mini-town. A separate area houses war memorabilia from medals, uniforms, and sepia photographs to delicate hand-written letters and newspaper clippings that range from the Civil War through the end of World War II. Many artifacts are from the era when Holland was occupied by Nazi Germany, the Netherlands struggling for independence, between 1941 and 1945.
I recently had a small part in a film that shot some scenes there, Just Like the Men, by Talking to Crows. The film is due out in 2019 as a celebration of the Pacific Northwest writer Ella Higginson and the 100th Anniversary of women’s suffrage.
This is an excellent stop to learn more about the rich history of the area and its influence on the local arts community.
Lynden Pioneer Museum
217 Front Street
Lynden, WA 98264
The Claire Theater
The Claire vg Thomas Theater, also known as “The Claire” is Lynden’s central hub for community theater performance. Many of my friends have performed in classic dramatic plays and uproarious musicals there. You can usually find holiday themed shows in December, including Its a Wonderful Life in 2018. Ahead in 2019 are Our Town and Seussical The Musical.
I auditioned there once for a dramatic production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole. I didn’t get the part, but was very pleased with the quality of the production, directed by Shawn Fuller, who also directed Godspell (below).
The 160-seat theater is located inside the intriguing Dutch Village Mall and presents four to six productions a year. The stage is a good height so all seats are good seats in this cozy community theater.
If you’re planning a trip to Lynden, be sure to include a show in your itinerary. It might be a new take on one of your old favorites or a production you’ve been meaning to see for a while.
Northwest Washington Fair in August
Each August, Lynden Fairgrounds are home to the Northwest Washington Fair. Lynden might be best known for its hard work and welcome of The Fair since 1909.
In addition to the carnival, rodeo, demolition derby and live animal and agricultural exhibits, you’ll also find art and music at The Fair. My favorites are the crafts that have been handed down through generations like quilting, crocheting, and weaving. There are literally entire buildings full of exhibits of the hand and art work of Pacific Northwest artists. Last year we wandered through photography and fine art exhibitions. You’ll also see pottery and other sculpture there.
Because they are organized by type, it’s easy to compare, learn about new techniques and styles, and often meet the artists. While some pieces are only for show, others are for sale so you can take a piece of the fair home with you.
The week-long fair also offers a variety of music and dance performances sprinkled throughout several stages. There is usually a big name performer at least one evening of the fair as well. In previous years that’s included performers like Jeff Foxworthy, Bret Michaels and Scotty McCreery and bands like High Valley and Night Ranger.
You can read more in Hilary Parker’s blog about heading to The Fair with the family.
Claire de Lune Lynden Music Festival in October
The purpose of the “Claire de Lune” Lynden Music Festival is to celebrate Lynden and its musical heritage, paying tribute to musicians who have greatly contributed to enriching the Lynden community with music. Like The Claire Theater, this festival is inspired by the late Claire vg Thomas, co-founder of the Lynden Performing Arts Guild.
Their goal is to share a variety of musical genres with the community and to bring quality artists from the greater northwest region and around the world to this corner of the state. The four-day festival brings established talent from the local, national and international stages to Lynden so that the community can appreciate diverse musical styles and cultural influences.
This festival is spread across multiple Lynden venues including Jansen Art Center, Lynden Pioneer Museum and several restaurants and brew pubs. You can catch classical, jazz, country, boogie woogie, a cappella, singer/songwriters and more throughout beautiful downtown Lynden. Performances are free and often include food or drink specials depending on the venue.
Lynden Craft and Antique Show in October
In 2019, Lynden Craft and Antique Show will celebrate its thirtieth annual event at the Lynden Fairgrounds Expo Building. The three-day event is a collection of over 70 vendors sharing their wares that includes re-purposed art and furniture, garden art, home decor, and hand-made jewelry, art, quilts, textiles, clothing and more. It’s an excellent place to find that just-right gift and you won’t go hungry with a wide selection of food vendors and sweet treats. It’s just $6 (with free-re-entry), kids 12 and under are free, as is the parking.
A visit to appreciate the the visual and performing arts and Lynden’s Dutch heritage makes a great day trip, relaxed weekend or addition to a longer stay in Whatcom County. Stay in town, drive up using I-5 or pop down from the Canadian border at Aldergrove with ease. Year round you’ll find inspiration and affordable fun for the whole family.