Local custom brings smiles

Thumbs up: Toy run

Today the roar of thousands of motorcycles will thunder through Lacey and Olympia as bikers from across the state assemble at South Sound Shopping Center in Lacey for the 32nd annual Olympia Toy Run. The gates open at 10 a.m. and motorcycle riders will donate at least one toy each for needy children. Riders and their passengers also have the option of making a cash donation. They toys are distributed through The Salvation Army’s Christmas giveaway program — the Toy n’ Joy Shop where low-income parents can select a Christmas toy for their children. Last year’s toy run had a record 10,000 riders who collected more than 7,000 toys and cash contributions of $17,618 for a total contribution in excess of $100,000. The motorcyclists will leave South Sound Center at 1 p.m. today, and tradition dictates that the parade of motorcycles will be led by “Santa Claus” Joe Sullivan, a founder of the annual toy run. Bikers will travel west on Pacific Avenue to Lilly Road, then west on Martin Way, up Capitol Way to the campus, then back down the hill and around Capitol Lake to Marathon Park. Sullivan said the toy run brings motorcyclists together for a very worthy purpose: the joy of a child receiving a gift at Christmas. Sullivan said the gleaming bikes, riding four abreast, will sport different names and badges and colors and their riders will range from all-season diehards to weekend enthusiasts. “For this day, we are one sister/brotherhood of riders thinking of the smiles our toys will bring to kids’ faces,” Sullivan said. Thousands of spectators are expected to line the route and salute the motorcyclists and their generosity in what has become one of Olympia’s finest holiday traditions.

Thumbs up: Lighted ships

Another outstanding South Sound holiday tradition is the Lighted Ships Parade sponsored by the Olympia Yacht Club. The ships have been a holiday tradition since 1948. Those who missed Wednesday’s parade in Budd Inlet will have a second, and final, opportunity at 6 tonight when the ships leave their berths at the Yacht Club and parade up the eastern shore of Budd Inlet to Boston Harbor. The boats will cross the bay and hug the western shore of the inlet until they finish back at Percival Landing and the Yacht Club. About 30 boats of all shapes and sizes and adorned with lights and holiday decorations are expected to participate. Yacht Club member Jerry Budelman is back this year with a display that is bigger and better than ever. For his Dancing Lights Christmas Show Budelman has decorated the starboard side of his 50-foot yacht with 10,000 computer-controlled lights. The lights illuminate Dora the sea dragon, a Christmas tree, snowflakes, candy canes, the star of Bethlehem and an angel in a dizzying array of colors, precisely synchronized to music. The boat will be on display from now through Dec. 22, at the Yacht Club’s 100 dock, visible to the public from the southern end of Percival Landing. Budelman will offer the free 30-minute show three times a night from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Then tomorrow the Olympia Yacht Club, in partnership with Thurston County Parks and Recreation, Olympia Harbor Patrol and Seattle Seafair, will host about 135 persons with physical and developmental disabilities on a Special Peoples Cruise in Budd Inlet at 1 p.m. More than 100 volunteers, including 25 to 30 boats and skippers, will cruise around Budd Inlet for several hours in search of Santa’s boat. Through their various events, Olympia Yacht Club members certainly contribute to the festive holiday spirit of South Sound.

Thumbs down: Yelm mess

You have to feel sorry for Andy and Cindy Smith who built their dream house on a hill that offers a picturesque view of the Yelm area, a community they fell in love with while Andy, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, was stationed at Fort Lewis. The house sits empty. It has been more than seven months since its completion, yet the Smiths can’t move in. They are caught in a land-use process gone awry. The city issued a building permit for the home despite a development condition that prohibited it. Now, to uphold a second condition, the city refuses to issue an occupancy permit to the Smiths. The developer was unable to install required improvements because of the U.S. financial meltdown, although both city and builder were assuming the improvements were moving forward when the building permit was requested and issued. And everybody — the Smiths, the builder, city officials — are pointing fingers of blame at one another. The Smith’s dream home has become a nightmare. The Smiths, both 42, are disheartened. Cynthia Smiths’ eyes well up when she talks about the dispute. Andy Smith says he’s spent thousands of dollars trying to get permission to move in. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but they don’t want us in that house,” he said. This land use issue needs to be resolved and resolved quickly. Surely reasonable minds can come to a reasonable solution to let the Smiths move into their home.