Festivals offer chance to help hard hit Oso communities

OSO, Wash. -- This weekend is a big test for the communities around Oso.

The Stillaguamish Valley was rocked to its core when the Oso slide let loose last March, killing 43 people. Valley businesses, many that are seasonal and recreational, are now working hard to bring visitors back to the area.

Jackhammers, drills, and sound checks -- they are the sounds of Summer in the Stillaguamish Valley. From Arlington to Darrington, festival organizers and volunteers are getting ready for their big shows, and getting ready for life after the Oso Slide.

"It's more essential than ever to come back to the Valley," said Lia Holland, Darrington's Summer Meltdown Festival's Publicist.

The Summer Meltdown Festival, a 14-year tradition with four days of camping and a weekend chock full of music, starts in Darrington on Thursday, right off State Route 530.

Festival Producer and Valley native Josh Clauson says it's about more than drawing big crowds.

"This year everything was in question for a minute there. To know we've gotten past that and we're building again and rebuilding it feels really good," said Clauson.

Clauson said keeping the summer tradition is a way to regain some normalcy -- especially for his young son.

"A few of his buddies -- 13- and 14-year olds -- were caught up in that. It was really difficult to take him to his first peer memorial," said Clauson.

Over in Arlington a similar sentiment surrounds the Stillaguamish Festival of the River and Pow Wow.

"Getting back to normal is real important after a tragedy like that. It does help you keep perspective. We just have to keep taking care of each other," said Tamara Neuffer, Stillaguamish Festival of the River Coordinator.

Their festival celebrates the Stilly Tribe and its culture. The slide scared off visitors to the Valley, but both festivals hope their summer traditions will bring them back; to fill their coffers and their hearts.

"Make peace with it this area,it's alive and well." said Clauson.

Tickets are still available online for the Summer Meltdown Festival. Gates open Thursday at noon. The Stillaguamish Festival of the River starts Saturday and is free and open to the public.