Columns & Blogs

Benefit for Bellingham musician Ray Downey set

Award-winning Bellingham composer and musician Ray Downey has been diagnosed with cancer. The community is coming together in a benefit event at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, at Mount Baker Theatre’s Encore Room, 104 N. Commercial St., with the goal of raising $5,000 to help pay for his chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Downey, a recipient of the Mayor’s Arts Award, plays saxophone and clarinet and has performed with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, the Saltwater Octet, Millie and the Mentshn, and the Atlantics, among others. He’s also a clarinet, saxophone and flute instructor for children and adults in Bellingham.

The Saltwater Octet will provide entertainment and there will be food and beverages. The octet is comprised of Whatcom County musicians, including Downey, who perform jazz and swing arrangements suitable for listening and dancing, featuring solo improvisation and vocal arrangements on many of the tunes, including works by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and others that span the 1920s to the present.

Local arrangers and composers for the band, in addition to Downey, include Bob Storms, Paul Sorensen and Mark Kelly. The benefit is hosted by the Jud Sherwood’s Jazz Project, with help from Mark Ashworth, Mark Kelly and Andy Koch.

People who cannot attend can donate directly to these bank accounts: Whatcom Education Credit Union; Ray Downey Donation Fund, and to Peoples Bank; Ray Downey Benefit Account.

For details, contact Sherwood at 360-650-1066 or

Entries open for port’s gingerbread content

Get your baking gear out; it’s time for the Port of Bellingham’s annual gingerbread contest, one of the best events of the port’s annual Holiday Port Festival. The contest is free and open to bakers of all abilities and ages.

This year’s theme, which is optional, is “Landmarks.” Many adults and children make a tradition of entering the contest, with ribbons awarded for the top three in each of these categories:

• Business or nonprofit

• Professional baker or caterer

• Youth grades K-3

• Youth grades 4-8

• Youth grades 9-12

• Youth age 5 and younger

• Family

• Senior citizen (65 or older)

• Individual adult

Entries are due Dec. 1, but the online entry form is available only through Nov. 30.

The edible structures need to be delivered to Bellingham Cruise Terminal from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3. They will be on display through Dec. 7 and can be picked up after the festival.

Many of the gingerbread entries are donated to a silent auction that runs throughout the three-day festival. Proceeds benefit the Home Port Learning Center. The event also includes a food drive for Bellingham Food Bank.

Details: 360-676-2500, ext. 384, or to

Northwest Folklife Festival applications due Dec. 1

The Northwest Folklife Festival, one of the largest free community arts festival in the United States, takes place Memorial Day weekend at Seattle Center. The festival is now seeking performers from within the Northwest for the 2015 event.

Artists and participants are not paid, but it’s a great way to gain exposure in the industry and to connect with fans and other performers. Applicants in music, dance, spoken-word, film and storytelling are encouraged to go to apply.

Applications are due Dec. 1. Details: 206-684-4189,