Quinault Indian Nation officials are expecting between 10,000 and 15,000 guests to show up at Point Grenville later this week for the Paddle to Quinault, and they’re planning accordingly. Seemingly overnight, a fairground-esque compound has sprung up on Quinault land north of Pacific Beach, complete with enormous tents, hundreds of portable toilets, and kitchens on wheels.
The Paddle to Quinault was created to celebrate tribes worldwide who traveled and hunted using huge dugout canoes. The event has been years in the planning, and the Quinault Nation has budgeted $2.5 million to host it.
Some of the guests will arrive by water, traveling in canoes from all over the west coast of the United States and Canada. Groups from Hawaii and New Zealand, who flew in to the West Coast, will also paddle to Point Grenville.
“The real challenge was even finding an area big enough to host the event,” said Jeff Capoeman, the man in charge of the site’s construction.
If it’s hard to picture 10,000 people, picture the number in terms of the food they’ll eat. Brandon LaVille of Emerald Cove Catering, a Seattle-based company in charge of much of the event’s food, said his company ordered 500 pounds of dry pasta and 30,000 pounds of potatoes.
“We had to call the farmer and make sure he had enough to supply us,” LaVille said. “We bought his entire crop for this year.”
Most of the company’s employees will be on hand for the six-day event, preparing the food in two portable kitchens the size of semitrailers. They’ll also bring in three huge refrigerators and a tent.
“We’re expecting to have people working pretty much 24/7,” LaVille said. “There will be 40 of us, and we’ve rented houses. It’s going to be like living in a fraternity.”
But the compound won’t just be somewhere guests come to eat. Paddlers and many others are expected to stay on-site where about 6 acres of campsites have been created. Melissa Miller, one of the event’s organizers, said there will be 400 portable toilets at Point Grenville — some are already in place, and others are arriving by the truckload.
And to accompany the portable toilets, the event organizers brought in portable showers and laundry facilities.
Spectators will watch the singing and dancing from an enormous, 5,000-person tent lined with bleachers and eat meals in an equally large dining tent. The tents bear little resemblance to the flimsy structures one might use for camping. These tents are more like buildings constructed from steel beams and canvas. Miller said crews spent five days putting the structures together.
Capoeman said construction of the site, formerly a U.S. Coast Guard post, has been anything but hasty. He and his crew broke ground in July 2012, tearing down the old, asbestos-filled buildings. Point Grenville now has only one permanent structure: a large, red shed that tribal members will use while carving canoes and totem poles. A large portion of the compound is covered in gravel, and the rest of the space is a wooded campground.
The old road to the site, which is partially paved and partially gravel, was too narrow to use for such a large-scale event, so crews cut a new road through the trees to the highway.
“Some of it has taken a while because it’s a very touchy cultural site,” Capoeman said. “To make any decisions, you have to get a lot of people on board. But there’s really no better site to have this event on.”
Capoeman said all the construction work was done by tribal members.
To match the large scale of the event, the Quinault Nation commissioned a new totem pole hand-carved from a 100-foot tree. A team of three carvers recently finished carving and painting the pole, which will be put in place later this week.
Paddlers are expected to land at Point Grenville between 2 and 5 p.m. Thursday. Singing, dancing, presentations and other festivities will take place through Tuesday. To learn more about the event, visit www.paddletoquinault.org.