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A hidden folk art chalet

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Across the street from Gordy's Steak and BBQ Smokehouse on 436th Avenue Southeast there's a driveway guarded by several carved wooden gnomes. The yard is festooned with several large wooden mushrooms. If you drive by too fast, you'll miss it. Those gnomes always remind me of the sweet French film "Amélie," the plot revolves around a young girl's desire to commit random acts of kindness, including returning lost childhood souvenirs to their rightful owners and sending garden gnomes on trips around the world to try and get her reclusive father out of his house. A similar gnome is now the spokesman for Expedia travel (I think it was inspired by the film).

These gnomes stand sentry for Adi and Eva Hienzch's quaint "Edelweiss Chalet," an Alpine-style house and studio set back on the property. The house itself is covered in hand-carved wooden doors, sculptures of birds, animals, mountain scenes and base-relief panels. You would think the house alone represents a lifetime of work in woodcarving. Not even close. Adi, a spry and chipper 80-year-old Austrian woodcarver, takes you out to his studio where hundreds more carvings and paintings reside - for sale, I might add.

Adi began carving wood at 13 years of age and his folk-art style is self-taught. He came from Austria to the United States 50 years ago "out of curiosity," he tells me. He found North Bend and deemed it the perfect place for Alpine hikers like himself and his wife Eva to live.

After 60 years of carving, he and Eva stay busy with art. Eva makes silk flower arrangements and Adi now carves only on a commission basis. These days, he leans more toward painting - his new passion. He loves to paint mountains and landscapes and has many scenes of the Alps, as well our own Cascades.

His paintings and sculpture are prolific. I'm astonished by the sheer output, not to mention the well-honed craftsmanship. It represents a lifetime of work in wood. Some of his pieces grace homes, businesses and parks around the world. Did I mention they are for sale?

Although I chide about patronizing local artists, I am as guilty as anyone else in town for not stopping by and satisfying my curiosity. Now, with my mission to uncover art in the Valley, I had a good reason to stop in. I've driven by that place for six years and the visit took me all of a half an hour. Adi and Eva's hospitality and friendliness made me feel totally welcome.

Of course, it's a bit off the beaten path for the general public and that again brings me to my old lament. Shouldn't there be a place in town where artists like Adi can show their work to a larger audience? The answer is yes, but until then, I recommend stopping by Adi and Eva's studio at 14410 436th Avenue Southeast (Cedar Falls Road) off I-90's Exit 32. They don't have a Web site or e-mail, but the phone number is (425) 888-0490. "And don't forget your hat!" as the Expedia gnome would say.


Other goings on:

Live! From North Bend! There are lots of laughs with the Spolin Players at the Unity Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and kids age 12 and under. The Spolin Players' show is completely spontaneous improv theater based on audience suggestions using games created by Viola Spolin. If you like "Whose Line is it Anyway?" you'll love the Spolin Players.

These games create some of the best improv comedy you'll ever see. We're developing a loyal following in the Snoqualmie Valley - come on down and have a look. For information, visit www.unitytheater.-org or www.spolin.com. Tickets are available at Nature's Marketplace and The Pizza Place in North Bend. Call (425) 831-5667 for reservations.

The Unity Theater is located at 119 North Bend Way, North Bend.

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The holidays are approaching and North Bend is busying itself with a myriad of events to celebrate the season.

On Oct. 29, Si View Community Center will be hosting its Halloween Carnival and Haunted House with James and His Marionettes. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. The carnival runs from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. I'm volunteering to lend my talents as a flesh-eating zombie!

For information, visit www.siviewpark.org or call (425) 888-1442. The center is located at 400 S.E. Orchard Dr.

It's not too early to begin talking about Christmas, either.

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens runs Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unity Theater.

The show boasts a local cast of 20 Thespians directed by yours truly. The show will be a very authentic Victorian telling of the classic tale and promises to be an extravagant production.

And get ready for "Christmas in the Cascades" on Dec. 11. There's to be a town Christmas tree lighting ceremony and festival at the Mount Si Senior Center, as well as a holiday bazaar at Si View.

Visit www.christmasinthecascades.com and get ready everybody, the holiday season approaches!

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