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A visit to the "Valley and beyond"

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SNOQUALMIE - In the book "St. Nicholas and the Valley Beyond," artist Richard Burhans and co-creator Ellen Kushner tell the tale of an ordinary man who, with the help of his neighbors, makes holiday wishes come true.

Since the release of the book in 1994, Burhans has used its notoriety to help life imitate art by holding book signings and other events to raise money for local charities.

This holiday season is no exception as Burhans will be hosting an open house next week to raise money for Children's Service of Sno-Valley and help residents get into the spirit of the season.

Burhans will be hosting the open house at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Course beginning at 7 p.m. on Dec. 22. The event will feature cookies, cocoa, a book and poster signing and a reading by Burhans from his book, "St. Nicholas and the Valley Beyond." Harley Brumbaugh's Valley Voices choir will be on hand to perform.

When the book first came out in the '90s, Burhans used signings as fund-raisers for local charities. Donating the proceeds, he said, is something done out of respect for a community that has been gracious to Burhans and his wife, Sallie, after the couple moved here from Seattle.

"Sallie and I have always been grateful to our community because so many people have fallen all over themselves to come out and pose and help us out," said Burhans.

Many of those who posed for Burhans, a retired architect who now devotes his time to his artwork, did so during the beginning phases of the production of his book in the mid-'80s.

"St. Nicholas and the Valley Beyond" is the story of a poor boy who stumbled upon a village in a magical valley. Eventually Nick and his valley neighbors become the bearers of holiday gifts, striving to give others a good life.

The characters in the elaborately painted book were based on more than 75 Snoqualmie Valley residents who were videotaped by Burhans.

Georgia Kramer said she remembers playing a special role in selecting many of the younger models for the book. As a longtime employee of the Si View Community Center pool, Kramer said the hundreds of children and families using the facility offered her a wide selection from which to recruit.

Kathy Furulie said the models had no idea what to expect when they were asked to participate. After being asked to bring extra clothing, Furulie said, participants were videotaped in different poses.

It wasn't until the paintings were completed years later that Furulie and other participants were able to see what role they played in the story.

Next week's event will be an opportunity for residents to visit the TPC at Snoqualmie, said Burhans, which is especially a treat during the holidays.

"The club is so beautiful for Christmas," said Burhans. "It's like the old Frederick & Nelson."

Although he has used the success of his book to help out Valley organizations, Burhans doesn't look at it as a one-way issue.

"I don't think we do it for the community, we do it with the community," said Burhans.

Travis Peterson can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at travis.peterson@valleyrecord.com.

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