Monday, August 10, 2015

A Trip To the 2015 Twin Peaks Festival

In 1990 Twin Peaks changed television forever. The story of a small town rocked by the death of Laura Palmer, high school senior and prom queen, and the dark secrets the investigation unveiled, took audiences to weird and wonderful places. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Lynch brought a cinematic look and sensibility to television for arguably the first time, whereas Frost brought the expertise of long form story telling. The show burned brightly, before burning out. A cultural phenomena in its debut season, by the middle of its second season audiences were losing interest and the show was cancelled. A much darker prequel movie (showing in detail the murder of Laura Palmer) followed, and that was that, or so we believed.

As we now know, Twin Peaks is coming back after 25 years for a third season, but if there’s one thing that was keeping the love alive more than anything else in the intervening years, it would be the Twin Peaks Fan Festival.

Many TV shows have a convention or event that allows fans of the series to meet celebrity guests and fellow obsessives, but few TV shows have something as unique as the Twin Peaks Fest. The Twin Peaks festival spun out of the movie premier of ‘Fire Walk With Me’ which was held in 1992 in the North Bend area where the pilot for the TV series, and Fire Walk With Me had been filmed. Fans gathered together for that official event and were able to meet some of the stars of the film and show, and two of them, Don and Pat Shook decided that an annual celebration of the show should be held in the area around that same time each year.

23 years after the Fire Walk With Me premier, and 25 years after the show first started airing, the festival has been handed from one set of fan organizers to another down the years. Current organizers Rob and D’Anne Lindley have been running the fest since 2013 and planned an extended series of events for the 2015 festival, being the 25th anniversary, and the first festival to be held since the announcement of a Twin Peaks resurrection.

With interest at an all-time high, my wife Katy and I were lucky to get tickets seeing as how all 300 tickets sold out in around 10 days. Given that when we first attended the fest in 2004, they were selling tickets at the door, it really says a lot for the hard work of all past fest organizers that this event continued to grow from the 75 or so attendees that were there at the start.

We flew in on Thursday night and attended the pre-fest mixer which, while an unofficial event, is still sanctioned and attended by many of the organizers and is basically the start of the fest. Since this is now held out behind the Roadhouse in Fall City (which fans of the show will recognize as the building used for the exterior of the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks), it feels more a part of the fest than ever before. It's a great opportunity for regulars of the event to catch up with each other and for first time attendees to be made to feel like part of the family.  In the last few years, an ever increasing number of local businesses have started to embrace the festival, as was evident with the Roadhouse staff wearing Twin Peaks themed T-shirts all weekend.

A key difference between the Fest and other similar events is that it isn’t based around a convention center, so there isn’t any one single place people tend to stay. From the luxury of the Salish Lodge and Spa (recognized by fans of the show as the exterior of the Great Northern), all the way down to the budget options of a number of camp sites in the area, wherever you stay you’re sure to find fellow fans, and people with rides are always happy to help those without.

Things officially kicked off with sign in at the Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie on Friday morning. The school itself had been used in the show, as the high school seen in the pilot, not that you’ll be able to recognize much other than the color scheme since it’s been significantly renovated. Despite the changes, the feeling of being in a friendly town like Twin Peaks continues to percolate throughout the weekend.

Somebody Shot Waldo
If arriving at a filming location and being warmly welcomed by the organizers as they get you your information packet and all important badge didn’t immediately help get people in the right mood, the amazing spread of donuts laid out with free flowing coffee and orange juice sure will. Provided by a local business, George’s Bakery and Deli, these freshly baked treats are decorated with bird feathers and a jam based blood substitute in memory of every Twin Peaks fan’s favorite mynah bird, Waldo, who was similarly shot and splattered over a table full of donuts at the Sheriff’s station in the show.

We helped ourselves to a couple of these spattered donuts and visited some of the vendors setup inside the high school, many of whom were selling their own Twin Peaks related artwork or handmade jewelry, and others selling various collectibles and rarities.

After a few announcements from lead organizer, Rob, going over the various events and activities the weekend was to contain, it was about time for the trivia competition. Trivia is just the first of many contests and competitions which are a big part of the Twin Peaks festival. I have to admit that I sat the trivia contest out this year, not having rewatched all the series recently, but with returning champion wunderkind 15 year old Spencer Collantes in attendance, I wasn’t going to miss watching this one.

Movie Director and Trivia Guru Josh Eisenstadt
Twin Peaks super brain Josh Eisenstadt asks the questions, and is aided by former three time champ Trinidad (three wins and you’re retired!). New for this year were questions based on the ‘Missing Pieces’, the 90 minutes or so of edited together scenes that had been cut from Fire Walk With Me that had been released with the Blu-Ray set a year ago.

Things begin with a quick elimination round of questions of ever increasing difficulty. If you get a question wrong, and any of the next two people get it right, you’re out, until things have been weeded down to three final entrants.

Making the cut this year, to no surprise, was the defending champ Spencer, another former champ Bryan Trahan, and the best of the first time attendees Jason Hawkins. As Josh Eisenstadt put it ‘this is where we rip off all the TV gameshows’. This round has a board of different categories and questions worth different point values. Some questions bring with them bonus questions, and in the music category fest AV specialist Glenn Allen plays music clips that have to be identified.

There was also some business with battlecards, which Jason seemed to suffer the main brunt of, but once the board was cleared it was time for the final question where the final three can choose however many points they want to gamble Jeopardy style. Spencer was comfortably in the lead at this point, but not far enough ahead that it was a sure thing. Contestants had to name 5 of the 6 books that Ben Horne listed as having on his bookshelf... and it ended up being a bit of a nail biter, as Bryan gambled all his points, but fell one book short (writing the Torah instead of the Talmud) giving Spencer his second straight win and Jason a solid second.

Bryan, Jason and Champ Spencer
Anyone interested in the 2016 festival might be interested to know that Spencer likely won’t be attending next year, so Bryan Trahan a perennial final three and Jason Hawkins are likely to be the ones to beat if you want that free fest ticket.

Also set up at the sign in (and popping up at various locations over the next two days) was the caption contest board, with four pictures from the show, the movie, and the missing pieces available for the quick witted to potentially win one of four sets of prizes of their own. Similar to what second and third placed entrants in the trivia contest get, prizes often include things like mint condition first printings of Jennifer Lynch’s ‘The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer’, original fan art, collectibles and highly desirable original posters from the TV show and the movie.

With the sign in and trivia contest out of the way, things take a break for a few hours until that evening’s celebrity banquet and costume contest. Held at the lush Snoqualmie Ridge Club golf course, we filed in past a small recreation of the show’s ‘Red Room’ which was set up as a photo opportunity, and an amazing recreation of the neon sign from ‘One Eyed Jacks’, a famous casino and brothel seen in the show. The Red Room featured the same kind of chairs used in the show that had been restored and reupholstered by fest attendee Jason Mattson. Jason also brought with him the replica of baby Spike from David Lynch’s Eraserhead for photo opportunities for fans and celebrities alike. As for the neon sign, that was the work of regular fest attendees Barbara and Richard Koefed, who live in the area.

My wife Katy poses with Spike
The attending celebrities were Phoebe Augustine (Ronette Pulaski), Ian Buchanan (Dick Tremayne), Catherine E. Coulson (The Log Lady), Gary Hershberger (Mike Nelson), Jonathan J. Leppell (Pierre Tremond), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), and Charlotte Stewart (Betty Briggs). Unfortunately James Marshall (James Hurley) was not able to attend as announced, due to an illness, and everyone there wished him to get better soon. As a surprise replacement Jan Darcy (Sylvia Horne) joined the other celebrities. After we had all eaten, there was a Q+A session. Many questions were asked about the shows past, and its exciting future. While the celebrities couldn’t say much about the upcoming season 3, just the fact that some of them were already under signed non disclosure agreements was exciting in itself.

Line of the night had to go to Kimmy Robertson, who in response to a fan inquiring when she developed her characters eccentricities, without missing a beat she replied ‘in utero’.

The Celebrities Chose the costume contest winner

After the Q+A, attendees had the chance to queue up to meet the celebrities, get up to two items signed, and get their photo taken. With 300 attendees all eager to meet everyone, this took a bit longer than expected, but everyone was considerate and accommodating, fans and celebrities alike. After everyone was fed, and had their signed items and photos out of the way, the fest rolled on with its annual costume competition.

Unsurprisingly, given the number of attendees, there were a large number of entrants and competition was fierce. Entrants ranged from note perfect recreations of characters from the show, to more creative and abstract examples of items and themes from the series. It was up to the celebrities to decide, and the winner was Fenchurch Alexander as an Audrey Horne Action figure. Second place went to Erik and Adriane Dee Wilson as Ed and Nadine, and third place went to Gentle Fritz as ‘My Mother’s Sister’s girl’ aka Lil.

With the contest over it was the end of the first full day of the festival and time for people to recharge their batteries for Saturday’s events and say goodbye to Charlotte Stewart, who had to perform in a stage production.

When you attend the festival for the first time, the bus tour of filming locations is a must do extra. This year three separate full sized coach tours were needed, such was the popularity of the tour. Tour guides Rob Lindley, Kat Evans and Josh Eisenstadt all received praise from the people who were on their busses, as they were taken to locations from the series and film such as the Sheriff’s Station, the mill, the Double R Diner, Haps Diner, Big Ed’s Gas Farm, Ed and Nadine’s house and many others.

As usual, Richard and Barbara Koefed snuck out early before the bus tours to drop off their recreation of the Welcome to Twin Peaks sign, something which they first did completely in secret all by themselves as even the attendees all want to make the Fest as special as posible while providing a great photo op for fans.

The new owner of Ed and Nadine’s house was also kind enough to invite people onto her lawn to get group photos taken in front of the house. I’m told her drape runners were almost silent.

Meanwhile, for those waiting for their tour, or those who didn’t opt to buy a tour ticket, at the Salah Grange in North Bend, they were showing the runners up in the short film competition, and it was a second chance to pick up some original pieces, rare memorabilia, or official fest T-shirts for anyone that had missed the opportunity the day before.

The Grange used to be the location for sign in, and anyone trying to find parking there on Saturday quickly learned why sign in was moved, in what was probably the only true annoyance of the weekend.

With a few hours to spare between the bus tours and the start of movie night, fest goer Chris Matthews had arranged with Kyle Twede, owner of Twede’s Diner, to bring back the Fire Walk With Me Hot Wing Fire Walk. Twede’s Diner is a major location from the show, and while not part of any official fest activities, a popular hang out. Given that the diner became famous for its cherry pie thanks to the TV show, its great to see the love for Twin Peaks on show at Twedes, with Twin Peaks playing in rotation all weekend, a whole host of Twin Peaks memorabilia up on the walls near the bathrooms, and a Twin Peaks mural painted on the back of the diner. It’s a great place to grab food and to bump into other fans of the series.

Through the fire and pages past...
Unfortunately, a few years ago, the diner suffered a fire, and the owners couldn’t afford to remodel it in the manner it was seen in the show, but plans are in place for a full remodel before shooting of series 3 starts in a few months. David Lynch himself was spotted a week before the festival kicked off, visiting for the first time in years.

But back to the hot wings. A few years ago Kyle Twede thought up the Fire Walk With Me challenge, where in daring participants are served six wings of ‘varying’ hotness one by one. The winners would pay nothing (and get complementary ice cream and a T-shirt) if they finished, otherwise they would be paying $13. Sadly there weren’t enough brave souls to keep the challenge going, so on hearing that Kyle Twede was bringing it back for one night only, I jumped at the chance.

Only five of us attempted it, but many more came to watch. I’m happy to report that I’m one of the four that made it all the way to the end, but trust me when I say it’s no joke and a stupid ‘let’s lick the extra sauce off the plate’ moment when wing number four was brought out almost sabotaged my efforts. It was great to meet Kyle himself and I really hope that he considers bringing back the Fire Walk again next year for anyone daring enough to try. Either way, definitely stop by Twede’s for a slice of pie or a huge plate of food when you’re in North Bend.

The short film competition is something that Glenn Allen has been working hard to get off the ground for the last few years, and with some 30 entries this year those efforts have clearly started to pay off. Contestants were asked to make a David Lynch inspired short that was up to 5 minutes long and that so many people did is yet another demonstration of the creativity and passion of the Twin Peaks community and that David Lynch’s work inspires.

The top three entries got to be shown on the big screen in the same theater where Fire Walk With Me was premiered as part of Saturday night’s movie night. The winner was David Busch, who’s short film ‘Fire and Moonlight’ cast the director and writer as an FBI agent, searching for Agent Cooper 25 years after his disappearance. It was a worthy winner, but runners up Thor Amli and Nicolas Lincy’s efforts were both worthy entries.

Due to some behind the scenes snafus, the main feature was not announced ahead of time, but Glenn put together an amazing package of Lynch and Peaks related and inspired shorts before the short film contest winners were screened. The celebrities were in attendance too, and were delighted to see themselves and their friends in some of the shorts and trailers shown.

While some were disappointed when the night’s movie turned out to be Fire Walk With Me, I have it on good authority that the organizers had been working until the very last moment to try and get a different feature and unfortunately the people with the rights to said feature weren’t able to play ball and so the backup movie was shown. My sources wouldn’t spill the movie or the rights holders in question, but I have no reason to doubt their word.

Despite the initial negativity, for many, it was a first chance to witness Fire Walk With Me on the big screen, which is an experience every Twin Peaks fan should have at least once. While I didn’t watch it again this year, having watched it more than once on the big screen, I still had no room to complain as there was a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the excited faces of this year's first time attendees settling in to watch.

Seriously, who doesn't want to see this on the big screen?
As a relatively regular attendee since 2004, the picnic at Olalie State Park on Sunday is probably my favorite event, as it brings together everything that makes the festival special. A lot of the celebrities stick around for the picnic, and if you were looking for a longer chat with one of the stars, it’s the perfect opportunity... just remember that the Celebrity Dinner is where you get stuff signed and your photos taken.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to hang out with other fest goers in a beautiful setting, engage in a couple more competitions or join Josh Eisenstadt on a short walking tour of the various Fire Walk With Me filming locations in and around the picnic area.

Obviously a picnic is at the whim of the weather, and we did suffer a few early downpours, but with tents in place and a decent amount of tree cover, this failed to put much of a ‘damper’ on things.

Along with announcing the winners of the trivia contest (see above), the picnic is also where the cherry stem tying contest and the rock throwing contests occur.

The cherry stem tying contest is based, naturally, on a famous scene from the series in which Audrey Horne pops a cherry stem inside her mouth and a few seconds later removes it tied into a knot, in order to get a job working at One Eyed Jacks and impress Agent Cooper in one fell swoop. The contest is simple, everyone takes a cherry, eats the cherry and then when instructed, entrants all simultaneously start trying to knot the cherry stems. The first person to hold up a tied cherry stem is the winner. Alexandrea Cyril Ybarra took the win in less than ten seconds adding to her haul of goodies, since she’d also won a prize for one of her captions.

Following that. people all got in line to enter the rock throwing contest, aiming to hit a glass bottle thirty (check) paces away. Just as Agent Cooper had done as part of his investigation, people are encouraged to name a character from the show, or a name beginning with J, before throwing the rock. If they smash the bottle, not only do they win, but it signifies their involvement in the murder of Laura Palmer.

A couple of the celebrities even stepped up to have a go, but it was with a steady aim and a strong arm that Hans Kaiser proved Jeb Bush’s culpability, making that trip all the way from Sweden all the more worthwhile.

Usually the picnic is where everyone says goodbye, but this year, due to festivities being extended by a whole day, and the addition of a Sunday night event, it was only the celebrities who bid their farewells.

The planned karaoke contest was rained out, so official festivities were moved inside the Roadhouse. Earlier, a few of us wandered over to the nearby Fall City Bistro for dinner (the location used as the exterior and interior of Hap’s Diner in Fire Walk With Me). It stopped being a diner three years back and has transformed into my favorite restaurant. Owner Chef Langan was sure to leave the iconic dining counter that had been originally been built by the film crew during production.

Just as Twede’s is worth a visit, the Bistro is a must. Food there may be more expensive, but it's worth the cost. To our complete surprise and delight, we found the last Sunday of every month, Fall City Bistro hosts a drag show. Of course, this was excellent fun.

The Counter is From the Movie, the Drag Show is Unrelated
Polishing off our food and heading over to the Roadhouse, weirdly, drag seemed to be the theme of the night. Even though the karaoke was cancelled, the drag theme coincidentally continued with an amazing live opera performance by fest attendee Adriano Emi dressed in drag as Isabella Rossellini. The Roadhouse put on a buffet service for anyone interested, and after another night of good conversations and good times, the second to last day of the fest ended.

For the first time in a long time, Monday brought the Twin Peaks Festival to the Kiana Lodge. This location is a bit of a trek away from the North Bend area where shooting predominantly took place. Some opted to caravan around the sound (a trip of about two and a half hours) while some opted to drive into Seattle and take the car ferry across the sound, shaving off a bit of a time and getting you out from behind the wheel of your car. We opted for the latter, and unsurprisingly ran into a few other ‘festers’ as the ferry sped on its way.

The Kiana was used in the TV show as the interior of the Great Northern hotel, as well as the Martell’s Kitchen and the back of their house (aka the Blue Pine Lodge). Most famously however, it is where Laura Palmer’s body was found, next to the giant log that rests there to this day.

Naturally, this is where fans of the show could get themselves wrapped up in plastic just like Laura Palmer for a fun and slightly macabre photo opportunity. The daring volunteers braved the heat, and by the end, it was impressive to see just how quickly the fest organizers could wrap someone in plastic.

The Kiana Lodge served box lunches for anyone who wanted to purchase one, before one final walking tour, led again by Josh Eisenstadt, brought the official events to an end. Sadly, it was time to start saying good byes to our ever extending family of Twin Peaks fans.

I’d like to thank all of the staff (you all know who you are!) who helped make the 2015 fest the best one Katy and I have been able to attend, and all of the celebrities who took time out of their lives to come and hang out with a group of fans who have helped keep the show alive all this time. I fully recommend the fest to any fan of the show. The attendees are a diverse and friendly group, and the laid back small town feel of the series seeps into the festival itself.

I hope to meet some of you there one day.

CLICK HERE for more pics from Twin Peaks Festival 2015!

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