Sunday, June 8, 2014

WAWeekend: Paintin’ The Town ~ Toppenish

With the apparent return of Spring in the Pacific Northwest, we are resuming our WAWeekend feature highlighting some of our favorite Washington State places:
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Yakima River Walkway - Yakima
I grew up in Central Washington’s Yakima Valley; about a 30 minute drive from today’s featured town.  Three decades ago this small farm and livestock center was simply a town you passed en route to the Tri Cities on the Columbia River or points further south in Oregon.

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Wine grape vineyards that have put the Yakima Valley on the map were still in the infancy stages. That ‘Washington Wine Road’ that now brings thousands to the area these days was just a plain old highway.

There was no reason to go to Toppenish unless you were employed at the huge U and I Sugar processing plant located just outside town – sugar beets were a big crop around the area back then.
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U and I Sugar Plant remains - 2010

Then the sugar plant closed in the late 70’s. The town’s crime rate was high, its mid-century buildings run-down and graffiti-covered. And then a group of enterprising folks had an idea. . . fast forward. . .

Toppenish 2014: "Where the West Still Lives"

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Toppenish, now with a population of some 9,000,  says it is the place "Where the West Still Lives". It does - in the old west murals - some 75 of them on buildings in its revitalized downtown – so many, that the tourism folks have created a map to help visitors find them all (a link is provided below).

PicMonkey Collage

The first weekend in June each year a new mural is created during the town’s Mural-In-A-Day celebration. A 5k fund-raiser run kicks off the event, and then spectators watch from bleachers as a new mural is created.  This is the Mural Weekend in that small town and the newest creation, number 76,  will be installed at the U and I sugar plant – it will greet visitors arriving in town from the exit off Interstate 82.

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And these days, I’d be the first to tell you that a stop in this town is a must when traveling the Washington Wine Road through Central Washington. In addition to the murals, you’ll find close by:

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Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center - Toppenish
* The Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center (museum, restaurant and RV park);
* The Yakama Nation’s Legends Casino
*A Hop Museum (which is well worth a visit whether you are a fan of brewskies or not).

If You Go:

Tourist Information:

Map picture

Follow this handy map of murals:

Linking up with:
Weekend Travel Inspirations


  1. It looks so beautiful there, Jackie! I have yet to make to the central part of your State but hope to someday! I like the "Where The West Still Lives" part and those murals are awesome! It looks like a lot of nostalgia there too...which I'm a huge fan of! Good post! :)

    1. I do forget the old west emphasis over in Eastern Washington, Mike, and then treasure it each time we visit. While it wouldn't take much more than a few hours, Toppenish is definitely worth an 'art walk' should you make it to the area one day.

  2. I love exploring small towns, and this one does look interesting. Thanks for the rundown on it, Jackie.

    1. Andrew, I can only imagine the magic you would do with that camera and some B and W's of this place! Thanks for the visit.

  3. Great to see the town make a comeback. A mural in a day sounds like great fun.

    1. It would be a fun event - I can't believe I was there and still missed it! Thanks for stopping by Jan.

  4. Replies
    1. Yes Lilli, they were the most interesting of mid-century buildings and each seemed to sport a fancy reminder of the old west.

  5. The murals look great. They always bring such a sense of whimsy to a visit wherever they're found.

    1. They certainly improved this town, that's for sure, Irene. Thanks for your visit today.

  6. Hi Jackie,

    It's so amazing when small towns that once were thriving, come back to life, get repopulated and have something to offer their visitors, albeit en route to other destinations. Toppenish truly is a town that demands a stopover to take in the artistic brilliance of those magnificent murals. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a lovely week!


    1. Yes, I am always impressed by those town leaders who pick themselves up by the bootstraps in this case and make lemonade when the town has turned to lemons. The murals are amazing.

  7. Love these old west towns! Thanks for the follow on Twitter, your story is very similar to ours. Safe travels.

    1. Hello GypsyNesters! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. I've been to your blog and had 'lost' you -- so glad you've re-surfaced. I will put you into my reading list or sign up as a follower - hope you do the same here!


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