18 Wonderful West Hill Moments from 2018

  Community Interest

by Devin Chicras

In 2018, your friends at the all-volunteer nonprofit West Hill Community Association had a banner year. From successfully partnering with teens to boost voter registration and turnout to leading community cleanups, neighborhood forums and highly anticipated events like our annual Skyway Outdoor Cinema festival and Halloween party, the year just flew by.

So we paused for just a bit to take a look back at some of the most wonderful, surprising, and memorable moments of last year (in absolutely no particular order). How many do you remember?

1) Learning to dance like a Veracruzano

Not only were Skyway Outdoor Cinema fans treated to breathtaking performances of traditional dances from various regions of Mexico by the talented youth of Folklore Mexicano Tonantzin this summer, they actually got to try out some steps themselves. Renowned dancer Sparky the Fire Dog was a fast learner.

Check out photos from all four nights of SOC: Coco, Wonder Woman, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Black Panther.

Sign up for SOC emails to be the first to know when we unlock the Season 17 Movie Poll this spring.

2) Getting out the vote with Margarito the Lizard & a T-Rex

Our first year in King County Elections’ and Seattle Foundation’s Voter Education Fund cohort was full of memorable moments – and among our favorites were meeting this civically-minded lizard and stopping traffic on election day with our T-Rex in front of Skyway Library.

We were thrilled to find out that after connecting with over 2,700 neighbors in person at nearly twenty different local events over just five months (and thousands more online and in schools through our student advocates) that the 2018 midterms saw the biggest turnout in fifty years, and that our efforts accounted for almost 20% of all new local registrations. Over 6,000 of the 9,551 West Hill residents registered turned in their ballots!

Watch the video of our T-Rex going wild along Renton Avenue South in Skyway

3) Hearing Spiderman and crew crush an N’SYNC cover

One of many highlights of our Halloween Bowling Alley Takeover was watching our fearless neighbors jump up on stage and belt out their favorite songs – from N’SYNC and a nun hitting every note of The Cranberries’ “Zombie” to the world-champion Karaoke Baron’s show-stopping renditions.

Miss all the action? Check out the rest of the event photos here. If you wanna see all the cool costumes from our photo booth, we got you.

4) Discovering magical litter-finding binoculars

We sure wish Avery and Hayden could make enough of these magical litter-finding binoculars for all our West Hill Action Mob (WHAM) volunteers. But even with such a disadvantage, our incredible volunteers still showed up and helped clean up the Skyway Business District area along Renton Avenue South not just once, but twice this year (including once in the pouring rain).

Sign up for WHAM Alerts today so you don’t miss the next party!

5) Meeting the Fire Chief’s Second Grade Teacher

You never know who will drop by when you invite the whole neighborhood by for coffee, donuts and conversation – even the Fire Chief’s second grade teacher might just make an appearance. Our new series of “Community Coffee Hours” feature special guests and provide a series of unstructured, laid back opportunities to meet neighbors and chat about whatever’s on our minds.

Recent topics have ranged from breaking down the subarea planning process with the newest member of the King County Executive’s cabinet to historic redlining, gentrification and equity issues.

Join our next Coffee Hour at Skyway Library on Saturday, February 9th, from 10-11:30am.

6) Hanging out with a trio of Black Panthers

Who better to help us close out season 16 of Skyway Outdoor Cinema than Black Panther? How about THREE Black Panthers? Fans were treated to Wakanda-worthy photo ops with The Black Hokage, Emerald City Avenger, and the cutest, most fierce 4-year-old T’Challa we’ve ever seen (plus, Billy the Brick as “The White Wolf”, aka Bucky Barnes the Winter Soldier).

See more great photos from the event here.

7) Chowing down on Grillmaster Louis’ famous BBQ

If you’ve been to an event hosted by Alajawan’s Hands, you know that in addition to a heaping helping of community – they are going to FEED YOU. Whether you prefer his smoked meats at the delicious free Thanksgiving meal they serve every year, or the BBQ classics every spring at their Community Family Reunion at Skyway Grocery Outlet – there’s no denying Louis Brown works magic on a grill, while wife and co-host Ayanna makes sure everyone is warmly welcomed with a hug.

Ayanna and Louis work hard “to continually expand the work started in the spirit of 12-year-old Alajawan Brown who selflessly gave of himself, his time, and resources – just to make a difference in the most important aspect of his community: PEOPLE.” What a tremendous legacy.

8) Receiving some unexpected gratitude

Shout out to our pal Nylesia who crafted an exceptionally thoughtful card for the West Hill Community Association volunteers who make Skyway Outdoor Cinema happen. We will treasure it.

We were also beyond honored to receive King County Fire District 20’s Community Service Award “in recognition of outstanding commitment and service to the community”. We’ll do our very best to stay humble.

9) Celebrating the grand opening of Skyway’s only medical clinic

Just last year, Skyway welcomed its first full-service health clinic in decades: HealthPoint at the Renton Area Youth & Family Services‘ (RAYS) Cynthia A. Green Family Center, located at 12704 76th Avenue South. But many neighbors still don’t realize we have such a great resource right in our own backyard!

WHCA was thrilled to attend their Grand Opening Celebration on April 21st, 2018, where the community cheered the much needed addition to the neighborhood.

10) Introducing the Amazon’s greatest warriors to a kitten

Just when you think Skyway Outdoor Cinema can’t get any more magical, here comes Wonder Woman (Amazon of Olympia), an Amazon Warrior from the Queen’s Guard (Tereshkova Costuming) and a KITTEN ON A LEASH. Almost as cool of a surprise as the time a pair of honest-to-goodness Jurassic Park jeeps rolled up to our showing of Jurassic World a couple seasons back.

11) Watching future firefighters conquer an obstacle course

A few sprinkles of rain didn’t stop us from having a great time at King County Fire District 20‘s Annual Health & Safety Fair and Alajawan’s Hands Backpack Giveaway. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth, and congrats to all the junior firefighters who completed the Firefighter Fitness Challenge!

See more photos from the event here.

12) Watching tiny local artists transform mini pumpkins

We stocked up on nearly 200 locally-grown mini pumpkins and all of the googly eyes, glitter and pipe cleaners anyone could possibly need for our Halloween Party at Skyway Park Bowl’s Lucky Dragonz event space. And then we sat back and watched as y’all made masterpieces. Check out more of the incredible creations with the rest of the event photos here.

13) Dancing in the (play) street with the Love Train

For the last several years, resident and kinship caregiver Alesia Cannady has transformed 75th Avenue South in front of her Skyway home (and Angel of Hope Play Place & Engagement Center) into the “Love Train Play Street”.

The whole community is invited to come down and enjoy free food, discover resources like free backpacks and shoes for kids, play some hopscotch or horseshoes, and perhaps most importantly, join their neighbors dancing in the street. See more photos from last September’s back-to-school event here.

14) Partnering with high school students to get out the vote

For the first time, we partnered with local high school students to expand outreach to younger folks in our community. Kellie Luther at Albert Talley Sr. High School was instrumental in supporting our phenomenal student partners, Jonah Gordon and Isaiah Mawudeku, as they tabled and developed a touching photo essay giving voice to their peers’ thoughts on the importance of voting.

Christina Neuschwander at Renton High School connected us to student leaders and all-around superstars Eliana Le, Zoei Hammond, Hannah Malkin and Lauren Wetzel, who used the latest social media trends to promote their tabling activities in the Commons area, and created a professional quality video of other Renton High School students discussing their views around elections.

15) Turning the mic over to the community

After about forty neighbors participated in our WHCA Fall Quarterly Meeting at Campbell Hill Elementary School in October and discussed topics ranging from accessibility and inclusion to smart growth, we offered them a feedback survey. Twenty-four folks responded – our top question was “which topics are currently most important to you?”. The top three answers were clear: SAFETY (21 votes), WALKABILITY (15 votes), and PARKS (12 votes). See what else your neighbors voted on here.

Results were sent to King County’s Subarea Planner for consideration as the new plan is being worked on.

16) Packing a photo booth with some memorable characters

Our Halloween party featured a photo booth with free event-branded 4×6 prints from Derek Johnson Photographic. Our attendees did not disappoint with some of the creative, scary, and downright hilarious costumes they rocked. See all the costumes from our photo booth right here.

17) Sharing delicious Eritrean food and coffee after a parade

After another exciting parade down Renton Avenue for August 18th’s Celebrate Skyway Parade organized by Skyway Solutions, Medhane Alem Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church hosted a block party and shared their delicious coffee and offered authentic Eritrean food and baked goods for sale! Of course, their salesperson was aces and made it hard to turn down.

18) Welcoming exciting changes in Skyway’s business district

2018 saw some big changes in our business district. While we lost one beloved institution (The Beachcomber, in continuous operation since 1947 until evicted in June), we gained several more gems – from My’s Vietnamese Sandwiches & Deli and Skyway Scorpions Taekwondo to the various food trucks that have popped up in the area.

In addition to all that, everyone’s favorite coffee shack proprietor secured permits and plans to move across Renton Avenue South to open a sit-down café selling American and Turkish food, after a difficult permitting issue with the county in 2017 required community support to overcome.

💖 Keep these moments coming

We’re a small all-volunteer nonprofit, and were fueled by your support. Please consider becoming a monthly donor (even at $5 or $10) to keep more of this community-connecting and problem-solving work going. Thank you so darn much, we appreciate you.