Tag Archives: Free

Chinatown’s hidden gem: the Wing Luke Museum

20 Nov
Letters from Asian immigrants carrying home messages of hope

The experience: A delight for all 5 senses

Immediately upon stepping inside the Wing Luke Museum, I was engulfed in nostalgic memories and community history. Straight up the stairs from the main entrance, my curiosity was piqued by what I later learned was the Letter Cloud – original letters from Asian immigrants with messages of hope fluttering just below the skylight with faint sounds of the ocean in the background, reminiscent of the journey across the water. Even further upstairs, I went into the original hotel where immigrants first found family, friends or familiar last names. The Mahjong tables with unfinished games, the kitchen with a sizzling wok, the sleeping quarters with sheets turned back and shoes on the floor – everything about this place made me feel like I was experiencing part of the immigrant journey.  Wall art alone won’t typically evoke these feelings. But the combination of art you can touch, sounds you can hear and stories you can feel makes the Wing Luke one of Seattle’s most powerful museum experiences.

Mahjong table in the historic hotel

 The history: Before there was Costco, there was Yick Fung Co.

Imagine you’ve just arrived on a boat from China. You have relatives somewhere in this region, but after immigration the next stop was often the Yick Fung store. An import-export store at the ground level, the store also had short stay beds for rent on higher levels. Immigrants, residents and restaurateurs would come to the Yick Fung to buy hard-to-find Asian items and chat with Uncle Jimmy. While the family run Chinatown institution closed it’s doors in 2008, it was another captivating element of the Wing Luke Museum. The smells, the toys, the beds, the running video of Uncle Jimmy – I walked into the store and felt like I had travelled back into Seattle history.

The Yick Fung store was often the first stop after immigration

The art: A community-based museum, it really does take a village

Boasting at least six special exhibits right now and other non-rotating exhibits, the Wing Luke is the only other community-based museum in the region outside of the Northwest African American Museum. There is no curator. Stories are collected from the community. Art is gathered by family and friends. The community comes together and they decide what stories they want to tell. A glimmer of the tremendous communal support, both from families and businesses, is reflected in every exhibit. I had a special appreciation for the exhibit highlighted the refugee journey during the Japanese internment. This exhibit brings the intense journey to life through photographs, art, family heirlooms, and my personal favorite: a handbag, a vintage bag belonging to a mother leaving her home in Seattle with her child in one arm and handbag underneath. If handbags don’t ignite the same excitement for you like it does for me, also imbedded in the exhibit is a looping video of Japanese-Americans discussing what internment was like for their family.

Mother and child forced to move during the Japanese internment

This is only a snapshot of what you’ll find at the Wing Luke. It is more than a museum, it’s a collection of life stories and community experiences. No wonder it was just voted #1 Best Museum of Western Washington. The website boasts that this unique museum experience is dedicated to sharing the sharing the “stories of survival, success, struggle, conflict, compassion and hope,” and it has done exactly that.

PS – if you’re wondering about the 5th sense, taste, be sure to stop by the gift shop with great teas and other Chinatown books, treats and trinkets.

Rating: Cool
Reminds me of: Mahjong of The Joy Luck Club & Traditional Chinese dance
Great for: Trying something new, rollin solo, dose of culture

Ballard SeafoodFest 2010

15 Jul

Welcome to the Ballard SeafoodFest

To be honest, I hardly ever go to Ballard. Maybe once or twice a year and it’s always because someone invites me to an event there. I have no clue as to why I don’t go more often because it’s practically guaranteed that I have a great time whether I’m at a raucous bar or a nice restaurant. Well this year things have changed! I finally took the initiative and went to the 36th annual Ballard SeafoodFest. I just knew this was going to be the perfect event for me as I am a lover of (almost) all things edible from the sea.

My ultimate goal for the SeafoodFest was to find a prawn dish and if that wasn’t possible, its smaller counterpart, the shrimp, would have to suffice. Things got off to a great start because I found street parking a block away! Upon arrival, the seafood theme was in full swing. A huge silver statue of a salmon stretched about 30 feet long and stood 10 feet tall complete with kids and grown men trying to climb in and out of its mouth. The main road had all of the standard street fair booths where local merchants sold a variety of products and/or services as well as activities for kids (i.e. Blowup slide, bubbles, etc) and even watering stations for the dogs. If this wasn’t “fun for all ages” I’m not sure what is. By the time I completed the first block I was ready for some food! Just my luck I was only one left turn away.

In a quest to find my beloved prawns, I meticulously reviewed the menus at each stand that had actual food. Most of the booths had some sort of fish sandwich or seafood dish but not many with prawns. My disappointment began to set in about half way down the block but I kept going despite being smashed on both sides by people in 80 degree heat. My persistence paid off in the form of a spicy bbq shrimp kabob. It was just what I was looking for. A nice, simple, and yes hot (they weren’t joking when they said it was spicy) shrimp skewer from Shrimply Delicious. Satisfied with my find, I was ready to take on the rest of the fest. At the end of the food block was a concert stage and some much needed shade trees so I was able to cool off while listening to a little music. The next street over had more arts & crafts booths as well as a beer and wine garden. Back on the main thoroughfare businesses with stores on the street were taking full advantage of the crowds by placing tables and racks on the street to lure customers in. Since I wasn’t really in the shopping mood I was able to save my money for one final shot down the food block. On my first pass I saw some sort of blackened fish (turned out to be salmon) grilling at Ballard Brothers so this time I jumped in the long line. I’m not the biggest salmon fan so this was just my speed with Cajun seasoning covering the entire fillet and a nice heap of salad (see pictures below).

After leaving the fest I felt full, tanned, and happy. I was successful in my search for a prawn dish and I tried (and enjoyed) a cajun style salmon which I’d never had before. I did have a slight yearning for a few more nontraditional or unique seafood preparations but I realize that this was a street fair where mass appeal wins. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for next year.

Rated: Cool

Great for: Outdoor Festival | Free Events

Reminds me of: Sara Bareilles

Ballard Brothers on the grill

Seasoned to perfection!

Upcoming Outdoor Festivals (check out the calendar for even more events):

  • July 16-18 | Bite of Seattle
  • July 16-18 | Kirkland Uncorked
  • August 13-15 | Taste of Edmonds


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