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Half the State Got All of the Quarter

by Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
The Herald, May 6, 2006

Driving to Sea-Tac Airport Thursday night, I had a great view of a pink Mount Rainier - and lots of time to enjoy it.

I was south of Seattle and it was after 8 p.m., but I-5 was still jammed with cars. The drive had me looking forward to a trip I'll take later this week, on I-90 through Eastern Washington.

They're two different worlds, the state's east and west sides. When I picked up Friday's Herald and looked at Gov. Chris Gregoire's design choice for Washington's commemorative quarter, I saw only one of them represented.

The I-5 corridor quarter, maybe that's what I'll call it.

Mount Rainier, a colossal hunk of gorgeous scenery, has a rightful place on the coin. I wouldn't argue against the salmon either, with its historical and cultural significance. What's missing is Eastern Washington. For this Spokane native, it's a glaring omission.

There weren't enough votes in an online poll to support a design showing an outline of the whole state. That one includes mountains, salmon and apples.

Of the poll's 135,345 votes, 45 percent agreed with Gregoire's pick, also favored by an advisory panel; 41 percent went for the whole-state coin with apples representing Eastern Washington agriculture. The rest chose a Northwest American Indian drawing of an orca.

I've been doodling, and there's plenty of room for a sheaf of wheat on the chosen design. I sketched one opposite the salmon in a blank spot on the coin's lower right side. Worried about clutter? Those splash bubbles near the salmon tail can go.

If that offends some artist somewhere, I'd counter that it's better than offending all the people east of the Cascades, many with roots deep in Washington soil.

I should disclose that with wheat farming in my family, I get a portion of my income from agriculture. Thousands of Washington families do. Apples, cherries, wine grapes, wheat; farm folks aren't asking for the whole quarter, just a tiny slice of the pie.

The bulk of the population isn't over there, but geographically, economically and experientially, Eastern Washington matters. It's a big, beautiful place.

"It's a different landscape. The great thing about Washington state is the huge dichotomy," said Bill Trimm, community development director for the city of Mill Creek.

Raised in Renton, Trimm is a 1970 graduate of Eastern Washington University in Cheney, which was then Eastern Washington State College.

"If you're going to represent the state, I think the rolling Palouse hills are something more people in Eastern Washington would identify with," Trimm said. The apple is a central Washington product and icon.

"Apples are from the west side of the river," Trimm said. For the geographically challenged, he means the Columbia. Over there, the Columbia River is a big deal - think of it as the Mount Rainier of Eastern Washington.

Over in apple country, Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Craig Larsen said Friday that his area does fine without being touted by a commemorative quarter. He's happy with the chosen design.

There are salmon in the state's rivers and "there's not a lot of dissension about Mount Rainier," said Larsen, also a Wenatchee City Council member.

"Sometimes there's an east versus west sensibility, but I think that's breaking down," Larsen said. "With all the population growth on the west side, more and more people are discovering Walla Walla, Leavenworth, Spokane and Wenatchee.

"What we've seen in the Wenatchee Valley is a major residential construction boom, primarily people from Western Washington. They're building lots of vacation or second homes that might become retirement homes," he said.

Coin or no coin, apple growing remains a strong tradition and way of life there. Wenatchee is celebrating its 87th annual Apple Blossom Festival this weekend.

Larsen, by the way, is an Edmonds native, a 1984 graduate of Edmonds High School. He left Western Washington in 1991. Bet you a quarter he's happy where he is.

I'd be happier if the state quarter showed all of Washington, but I've said my two bits' worth. The commemorative coins are fun, but I don't think they're all that accurate.

Quick, what's on the Nevada quarter? Slot machines? Showgirls? An Elvis impersonator?

Nope. The picture on the Silver State's quarter is of wild horses. Pretty, but they don't say Nevada to me..

Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
Half the State Got All of the Quarter
The Herald, WA, May 6, 2006

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