Having lived in the Yakima Valley since 1977, I feel like I can speak to the "Yakimentality," as I call it, that is very self-defeating. Having traveled to countless major metropolitan areas within the states as well as other countries, it is my wholehearted belief that Yakima IS beautiful! Hence, my excitement when I stumbled across a newly formed social media group that not only touts that mindset, but encourages you to contribute by showing the beauty that is here. The Facebook group called "Yakima Is Beautiful" was started by Glenda Epperheimer just a few short weeks ago and is already nearing 4,000 members.
Glenda was kind enough to stop by the radio station and explain the genesis of the group:
"I believe one reason this group has grown so quickly is because people are yearning for some positivity. It’s also great to discover ideas for interesting things to do and see. I’ve lived here my entire life, and I’m learning about all sorts of places I want to check out.
"I started this group from two mindsets.
"The first is that a lot of people my age become caught up in the trap of reminiscing about the 'good old days.' Don’t get me wrong, I love reminiscing as much as anyone. My dad, who grew up in Arkansas, was stationed at the Yakima Firing Center (now training center) when he was 18. He loved this area so much that he moved here after his Army service. I’ve lived here long enough to remember staring at the doll window of Newberry’s Department store where Chase Bank now sits on Third Street and Yakima Avenue, and Grant’s Department Store across the street with its lunch counter. I spent nearly every weekend at the Yakima Mall as a teenager.
"But sometimes our memories get clouded when we compare it with the Yakima of today, and it’s easy to start thinking that 'things used to be so much better.' While I’ve always loved my hometown, I also recall sitting at JB's Big Boy restaurant on First Street and Yakima Avenue and seeing people leaving the Blue Banjo literally falling down drunk on the sidewalk. Directly across the street was The Corral, a topless dance club. I remember as a child when the family car would stop at the light next to the Corral and I would study intensely the 8x10 black and white glossy head shots of the dancers posted on the wall next to the door. Fruitvale Avenue was the main street back then, for anyone entering or leaving Yakima from Naches, Naches Heights or Tieton. There was an indoor XXX movie theater there, and it was not uncommon to see R-rated soft porn on one of the three big outdoor screens. I had a cousin who went to high school in Yakima in the 1960s who knew people who carried switchblades and chains. There were street gangs then, too.
"So again, while I love to reminisce, it doesn’t mean then was good and now is bad. Quite the opposite, I think. One example: My dad used to love to drive us to Leavenworth to see the hanging flower baskets. He was an apple ranch foreman, a simple man who loved beauty wherever he could find it. He made beautiful things out of junk; he turned plastic milk jugs into Halloween skeletons and painted so many rocks. He would be so proud of downtown Yakima right now with its gorgeous hanging flower baskets, sidewalk pots loaded with flowers, old-time lamp posts, a cobblestoned and refurbished Front Street. This particular block used to be seedy; now it’s the location of Downtown Summer Nights. Also downtown, we have the newly renovated Sports Center (not only historical but great food!), Norm's (also great food!), Second Street Grill, Santiago's, Yakima Steak Company, a couple of really nice high-end hair salons, The Little Soap Maker, great downtown business lunch places like the Thai Restaurant on Second Street, Crafted, Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and so much more.
"Yes, I know Yakima has its dark side and its challenges, but every city does. The area that arguably needed the most attention was North First Street, and this summer it is getting that attention.
"The second reason a group like this occurred to me: One day while in my Uber Grandma mode, I pointed out a freshly planted orchard to my grandchildren and they just sort of shrugged like it was no big deal. I asked them if they knew that our Valley was basically the fruit and vegetable capital of the world, and they looked at me like I was nuts; it was obvious they thought every city has our bountiful harvests. My relatives in Kansas City buy Yakima fruit and produce at their local Costco, and their breweries use our hops. Seattleites come here to wine tour and hit up our fruit stands. We have festivals and concerts galore, and Broadway shows at The Capitol Theatre! The Christmas tree downtown every year is stunning, as are the lights on the Larson Building. The mint, hay fields and lavender fields are better than any manufactured aroma.
"There is so much to be thankful for, see and do in our beautiful Valley, from the vineyards of the Lower Valley to the forests of the Nile.
"The one thing about this group I’d like to stress is that everyone interprets beauty differently and sees beauty in different things, people and places. For some, beauty is downtown; for others, it’s the country or their family pet, their Vintiques car or the local hop fields, abundant wildlife or a beautiful sunset. Really, the list goes on and on. I won’t be surprised if we see some Friday night football photos this fall, or back-to-school poses. If something doesn’t exactly float your boat, just scroll on, because something else will. The beautiful things to see in our Valley are as varied as the people who live here.
"We do have a lot of Mount Rainer pics, as it can clearly be seen from Yakima, but mostly, this group is just about Yakima County or at least within a comfortable driving distance for something worthy of checking out. I want to give people free reign in this group as much as possible, but if anyone sees anything inappropriate they can “report” it, and we’ll address it. It’s important to note that this is a positive group."