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Wenatchee – the meeting capital

The new slogan almost harkens us back to those days, almost two years ago, when Washington state’s political eyes were centered on Wenatchee because of the big trial over the governor’s race . . . but that’s just us.

Those of us accustomed to seeing the familiar “Apple Capital of the World” sign upon approaching Wenatchee will see it no more, the Seattle Times reports. The new sign graphically points out the city’s dramatic canyon and riverfront location, and its words link to that: “Wenatchee. Meeting Rivers. Meeting Friends. Meeting Needs.”


It’s part of an ongoing development: Places are tending to define themselves less by their natural or agricultural resources. Check out the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce web site and you’ll find a little thumbnail shot of an apple, and a screen-wide picture of east and west Wenatchee, stradding the river at twilight. Apples get a mention, but no more than that.

Check out the Wenatchee city site, and you’ll see much the same: “One of the most digitally connected places in the country, Wenatchee offers the perfect place to balance all aspects of life, from building a company to raising a family or meeting the challenges of a new career. Wenatchee is world famous for our apples but it has so much else to offer — like over 300 days of sunshine a year and a wonderful turn of the century downtown that serves as a vibrant arts, culture and retail center.”

Not everyone is thrilled. The Times pulled these qutoes from Wenatchee people:
“It sounds more like an outreach program than a city.” “This new [slogan] is too New Age touchy feely. [It] leaves me feeling like a phony.”

Okay. But spend a little time around Wenatchee – the city itself, not the countryside – and you’ll not find yourself thinking a lot about apples, either.

East Wenatchee – the area across the river from the main downtown, a place with more sprawling residential areas and even orchards from place to place – would fit the apple slogan reasonably well. But the main city of Wenatchee, banked up more steeply against high canyon walls, has an industrial feel with a middling dollop of gentrification. It has a surprisingly large and active downtown area, one of the most impressive courthouse centers in the Northwest, an impressive collection of restaurants – in all, it has much more an urban and almost big-city feel than any impression you’d get from an “apple capital.”

There’s also the fact that an accelerating number of the old apple orchards are being replaced by other uses. (A lot of housing developers just love the narrow flatlands along the Columbia River, especially north of town.)

At least the critics have had time to get accustomed to the changes, since the city council made the decision to change slogans a couple of years ago.

But increasingly, cities in relatively rural areas that do find ways to prosper – and often find those ways have only tenuous connection anymore to agriculture – will have to make choices between what was and what will be. Wenatchee seems to have made such a decision.

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