Sing out for sustainability: Port Townsend girl’s song vies in nationwide contest
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Ella Ashford, dressed for last weekend’s Kinetic Skulpture Race, joins her mother, Gabriella. -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A song about sustainability that was written, performed and filmed by a home-schooled 12-year-old is up for a national award, although the government’s shutdown could delay the final results.

It took Ella Ashford of Port Townsend about two months to polish the three verses for “Me and You” and whittle it down to a two-minute format before submitting it to the Environmental Protection Agency’s sixth annual Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest, which takes entries in music, dance, photos, essays, poetry and media.

All of the entries were produced
by a multigenerational team. Ashford’s partner was her mother, Gabriella Ashford, 46.

To see the entries nationwide, visit

Ashford is one of two contestants for the song award.

Her “Me and You” is up against “Wonder of Nature,” with words written by 11-year-old Maryland resident Nia Anthony and music by her mother’s friend, 45-year old Southern California resident Jameese Smith.

“Me and You” features Ashford singing and playing a ukulele, switching locations among the CedarRoot Folk School in Nordland, the Port Townsend Farmers Market, the Port Townsend Northwest Maritime Center and the ReCyclery, where she is joined by a different crowd in each scene.

They all join in on the four-chord song, with a chorus of “me and you, me and you/let’s just start with me and you/we can do this if we try.”

Ashford believes the sustainability message is best understood and implemented one person at a time.

“I believe the community can work together to reduce, reuse and recycle,” she said.

“And if two people do it together, pretty soon, the whole population is involved.”

The Ashford family — which includes two boys, Nathaniel, 9, and Everest, 7, along with Eric Ashford, a boatbuilder — usually spends the summer in Hawaii but stayed in Port Townsend “because the recession caught up with us,” Gabriella Ashford said.

During this time, Ella Ashford acted as a volunteer for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, answering questions about two beached elephant seals who were moulting on Port Townsend beaches.

The girl, who wants to be a doctor, also was featured in a promotional video for the marine science center produced by local filmmaker Al Bergstein.

There is no prize awarded in the contest, aside from recognition, and Ella Ashford said she wins regardless.

“No matter what happens, I’ll come in second,” she said.

The winners will be selected by popular vote. The contest allows one vote per person.

The original deadline was Oct. 1. That was postponed to Oct. 25 because of the partial federal government shutdown, Gabriella Ashford said.

Those logging onto the page are greeted with the message: “The federal government is currently shut down. The EPA website and social media channels will not be updated until the federal government reopens.”

Gabriella Ashford said her daughter was “just a normal kid” until the 2012 Great Port Townsend Kinetic Skulpture Race, when the family built a sculpture. Their effort at last weekend’s race won Best of Show.

“Ella wasn’t the same person before last year’s race,” Gabriella Ashford said.

“From being an everyday kid, she turned into someone you can’t beat down. Now, she has the willingness to go out and fail.”

Said her daughter: “Albert Einstein said he has never failed, that he just tried 10,000 things that didn’t work.”

Votes can be submitted through or sent by mail to Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest c/o Kathy Sykes, U.S. EPA (Mail Code 8101R), 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 41284, Washington, D.C., 20460.


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: October 08. 2013 6:47PM
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