Category Archives: To Dos

Things to do in the Coulee area

Big Fourth of July Festival of America this week

Fireworks on the dam
Fireworks off the top of the dam will be bigger and better this year, chamber of commerce officials, say.

Music, food and fireworks.
Sounds like Festival of America time in the coulee, when patriots can celebrate America Friday and Saturday at the park below the Visitor Center, with a guide to the action inside this issue.
The Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce, the organizer of the event, has put together live music, kids activities, a big show in the park, fireworks and more to entertain local residents as well as the thousands of visitors who crowd the park and surrounding areas each year.
Listen to the music of MacDaddy, Tuxedo Junction and the Olson Bros. bands.
Fifty vendors will provide food and product in the park.
An “Inflatable Village,” a romp particularly for the kids, will help to make the time clearly a family time.
New this year is the chamber’s Beer Garden, located on town shop property facing Columbia Avenue, where adults can go for a beverage break and a retreat from the crowd.
All in all, a great experience filled with possibilities for everyone.
And don’t forget the Laser Light Show, kicking off just before the fireworks over Grand Coulee Dam.
All the fun is explained in the special Festival of America section with this week’s Star newspaper.
And by the way, when you see a chamber of commerce member, say “thanks” for the creativity and hard work it takes to put on the festival.

Here’s our online edition of our printed special section:

Huge laser show projected on Grand Coulee Dam

laser show
A 300-foot-tall coyote face stares out from the face of Grand Coulee Dam during the laser show, shown nightly in the summer.

The laser light show that explains the history of the area and the dam shows nightly through the season. It’s the largest outdoor show in North America and is something to see, newly updated in 2014.

What time does the laser light show begin?

The laser show is held nightly at Grand Coulee Dam as follows for 2015:

May 23 to July 31 at 10:00 p.m.

Aug. 1 to Aug. 31 at 9:30 p.m.

Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 at 8:30 p.m.

The show is about 28 minutes in length. There is no admission fee. Call 509-633-9265 for more information.

How long is the laser show?

The laser light show lasts approximately 28 minutes, during which time colorful images created by the lasers move back and forth across the huge surface of the dam.

Where can I view the show?

The best locations are the seating area at the Visitor Center and from the park below the Visitor Center. These areas provide an outdoor sound system.

The town of Coulee Dam has a park —  terraced and  grassy for viewing the laser show — adjacent to the east end of the Columbia River bridge.

Other viewing spots: from Douglas Park in Coulee Dam; from Crown Point atop the granite cliffs above Lake Rufus Woods, access from SR174 towards Bridgeport.

The USBR broadcasts the audio portion of the laser light show nightly at 90.1 FM.

What is a laser?

Lasers are intense beams of light commonly used in medicine and science, but they’ve also found a niche as a high-tech, fast-moving form of entertainment. They are controlled by computers which, at Grand Coulee Dam, are in the Visitor Center.

Although a single dot of light, lasers can trace an image so rapidly it appears as a solid figure to the human eye.

The term laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. It is so commonly used now that the tradition of using capital letters for an acronym has been dropped.

How are the lasers used at Grand Coulee Dam?

As one of the largest entertainment laser projection systems in the world,  and certainly the largest outdoor laser show in North America, the lasers at Grand Coulee Dam tell the story of the Columbia River and how its power was harnessed to provide multiple benefits to mankind, including electrical power, irrigation for farming and exciting recreational opportunities. As a result of the open process of scripting the show new in 2014, viewers will also understand the costs of building the dam — cost to wildlife,  and to native peoples whose way of life was dependent on that wildlife, in particular, the salmon that no longer could continue upstream to spawn.

How much did the lasers cost?

With the original equipment in use since 1989, the Bureau of Reclamation commissioned a new show and new equipment. The equipment began operation in May of 2013, but projecting the new show began in May, 2014. Lumalaser, of Oregon, bid the project at $1.6 million.

How big are the laser images?

Pictures are beamed at the awesome height of nearly 300 feet.

How far do the lasers project?

The laser lights are beamed between 2,000 and 4,000 feet to the surface of the dam.

Check out today’s big bull ride

A cowboy gets bucked off in last year's Cleatis Lacy memorial.
A cowboy gets bucked off in last year’s Cleatis Lacy memorial.

There’s some big bucks to be made today, Saturday, May 23. All you have to do is ride a few bulls.

It’s the Third Annual Cleatis Lacy Memorial Bull Ride at the Ridge Rider rodeo grounds in Delano. Action begins at 3 p.m.

This year, rodeo officials have added $3,000 to the prize money making the bull riding event attractive to some pretty good professional cowboys.

The event is named after Grand Coulee’s own Cleatis Lacy, a rodeo cowboy of the first degree. When he wasn’t competing, Lacy was one of the most popular volunteers, never turning down an opportunity to help out.

This year, rodeo fans will be able to pay tribute to Cleatis and another local cowboy, Bob Rowe, at the site of a memorial marker that has been erected across the arena from the main seating area.

The marker is a metal cutout showing Cleatis as a bulldogger. The companion marker is for Rowe, who had long been one of the cowboys that helped make the rodeo grounds what it is today. The markers are side by side, and a third marker honoring another local cowboy, Bob O’Neal, is being planned.

Glenn Shear designed the markers and then Joe Santistevan put his tool skills to work and created the cutouts.

Rodeo officials have added $1,000 to the purse for the wild horse race, one of the most popular events for the evening, and $100 has been added to the Junior Steer Riding event.

Wild horses, they just don't listen.
Wild horses, they just don’t listen.

Shane Marchand, Sev Carden and Deb Achord have all been active in developing the event.

And, by the way, if you’re into rodeo, this is your lucky day. Because when you get done watching the fun in Grand Coulee, you can head to the Coulee City Last Stand Rodeo about 30 miles at the other end of Banks Lake. Starts at 7 tonight.

What a view!

A lucky dog sniffs a great view. Ed Grenier (@roscoejefferson) photo
A lucky dog sniffs a great view. Ed Grenier (@roscoejefferson) photo

Here’s another fine use of Instagram: highlighting the great hikes the Grand Coulee Dam area offers. This shot is of a very happy dog on top of Steamboat Rock, out in the midst of Banks Lake at the Steamboat Rock State Park. It’s a hunk of earth that didn’t wash away in the series of catastrophic floods that carved the Grand Coulee at the end the last ice age.

So standing atop the rock, about 800 feet above the floor of the Grand Coulee, you can imagine the torrents that flowed through the area thousands of years ago, leaving this dramatic landscape.

The dog may not get that, but he certainly enjoys it anyway.

People are amazed, and here’s a video to show why

People are constantly amazed by the size of the dam and the achievement of building it.
People are constantly amazed by the size of the dam and the achievement of building it.

Visitors using Instagram are always posting how amazed they are when they see Grand Coulee Dam.

“It amazes me how humans built this large, amazing structure more than 80 years ago!” wrote @lishlo this morning in a public post.

The Bureau of Reclamation has produced a top quality documentary on the building of Grand Coulee Dam to show you the amazing story behind the immense effort, the big thinking, innovation and, yes, even politics it took. If you want to visit it, you’ll appreciate it even more if you understand the whole story, so we’ll post the video here, which you can also watch on a big screen in comfortable seats at the Visitor Center when you get here.