Nancy Fitch and Dave Meis of the band Reach for the Sky bring Western swing and country to the inaugural Townsend Bay Music Festival this Saturday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Nancy Fitch and Dave Meis of the band Reach for the Sky bring Western swing and country to the inaugural Townsend Bay Music Festival this Saturday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Port Hadlock’s Old Alcohol Plant to host new benefit fest

PORT HADLOCK — Hey, why don’t we have a music festival?

The fixings are right in front of us: grassy spot with bay view, patio for beer garden and barbecue, enough local musicians to trip over — plus a good cause.

That’s about how it went earlier this year as Aislinn Palmer, Ralph Baker and Gerry Sherman cooked up the Townsend Bay Music Festival at the Old Alcohol Plant, slated for noon to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are available at the Old Alcohol Plant Hotel front desk in advance, and at the door the day of event: $20 adults, $10 children age 6 to 12; free for kids 5 and younger; proceeds benefit Bayside Housing & Services.

After the details, it’s a story of how nine musical acts got on the bill for this inaugural benefit for Bayside, an unusual local charity.

Thirty rooms at the Old Alcohol Plant, 310 Hadlock Bay Road — king, queen and executive suites, pet-friendly luxury suite, penthouse — are part of the resort, while 15 rooms are temporary housing for people referred by Olympic Community Action Programs, Dove House and other social service agencies in Jefferson and Clallam counties.

Bayside residents, many of whom were homeless, have simple rooms of their own, a community kitchen and garden and access to that fabulous water view while they seek to get back on their feet.

This coexistence began in 2016, with the Bayside units opening in April and the hotel the following July. The hotel side, with its restaurant, bar and art gallery, helps fund the transitional housing side.

“We’ve had 250 referrals since we opened,” said Palmer, Bayside Housing & Services managing director.

The demand far exceeds Bayside’s supply. Bayside rooms are always full, but Palmer noted that there is not a limit on the length of stay.

“We’ve served 45 people. They stay as long as they need to,” and may renew their contracts each month provided they’re actively searching for permanent housing.

At least half of are seniors, Palmer said.

Many are women, so Bayside hosts a weekly women-to-women listening circle.

“Making Art from the Ground Up” workshops are also on the calendar at oldalcoholplant.com.

The Old Alcohol Plant also has ample space, alongside the Port Hadlock Marina, for weddings, parties and live music, including Friday evening appearances by local performers such as kora player John Tang today. A last-Friday-of-the-month dance party with the Midnight Train band is set for June 29.

Sherman, part of the band Lost in the Shuffle and a longtime open mic host at venues in Port Townsend, got a Wednesday night music series going at the Old Alcohol Plant this past spring. He’s bringing in duos such as Michael and Vickie Townsend and John “Greyhound” Maxwell and Jon Parry.

“We’ve been really pleased with it. People come for it,” said Palmer.

Old Alcohol Plant owner Gary Keister was amenable to the idea of more live music, she added, and it just so happened that Sherman and Ralph Baker, his Lost in the Shuffle bandmate, had the connections to build a summer festival.

“They did all the legwork” in booking the acts, Palmer said.

Aw, it wasn’t so hard. In Port Townsend and environs, “the musical community is close,” said Baker.

He and Sherman know a lot of people who play a lot of good music. Together they’ve booked bands, duos and a solo piano man to populate two stages with music from noon till 9 p.m. Saturday, with the barbecue and beverages on site.

“We mixed it up with different styles of music and local bands,” said Sherman, adding that Chris Gilbert, the English-born singer-storyteller who’s part of the band Happenstance, will emcee.

Palmer designed a poster for the Townsend Bay Music Festival, one that Sherman and Baker admired for its 1960s album cover look, and printed up the tickets, $20 for adults and $10 for children age 6 to 12 while kids 5 and younger get in free.

“We do have a rain plan,” Palmer noted. The Old Alcohol Plant ballroom has plenty of room for performers and audience.

The whole plant, it turns out, feels open — and that’s what Palmer and crew are going for.

Bayside’s mission, she said, is to provide temporary housing, a safe space for people to reset their lives — and open up a community gathering space.

With Saturday’s gathering, “it’s been all of us putting our heads together,” Sherman added.

He figures the festival, with its local flavor, is quintessential Hadlock. For Sherman and Baker, the town is an unpretentious place and the Old Alcohol Plant an ideal spot.

The property, originally owned by William J. Adams, grandfather of Ansel Adams, was built in 1910.

It became a wood distillery where Classen Chemical Co. turned sawdust into rubbing alcohol, but the plant didn’t prosper.

It closed in 1913 and stayed that way for more than six decades.

It later operated as the Inn at Port Hadlock; that closed down due to unpaid taxes in mid-2011.

Keister bought the property with twofold intent: opening a hotel and providing transitional housing. He and his crew turned the “tower” part of the inn into the Bayside, while the main building became the Old Alcohol Plant Hotel & Restaurant.

The old name was brought back, Palmer said, because that’s what people around here call this place, and why fight it?

In the two years since the venture began, she added, “we’ve never had an issue between the hotel guests and the Bayside residents.

“If anything,” she quipped, “the hotel guests can be rowdy sometimes.”

Festival schedule

• Noon: Vickie and Michael Townsend start the festivities with Cuban and Cajun music, she with her custom-made squeezebox from Louisiana and he on his guitars;

• 1 p.m.: Anne O and her band are up next with covers from the likes of John Prine and other American songwriters, all on ukulele, washboard and guitar;

• 2 p.m.: Rootsy blues and folk with the Toolshed Trio featuring singer Michaela Kingslight;

• 4 p.m.: Slide guitarist John “Greyhound” Maxwell and fiddler John Parry;

• 5 p.m.: Reach for the Sky plays cowgirl swing;

• 6 p.m.: Jim Nyby plays piano in the bar;

• 6:30 p.m.: Lost in the Shuffle does urban and country blues;

• 7:30 p.m.: Happenstance plays Irish pub music and sea chanteys to close out the show at 9 p.m.

For information, go to OldAlcoholPlant.com or call 360-385-4637.

Cooking up the Townsend Bay Music Festival are, from left, Gerry Sherman, Aislinn Palmer and Ralph Baker. They’re on the patio of Port Hadlock’s Old Alcohol Plant, where the festival takes place this Saturday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Cooking up the Townsend Bay Music Festival are, from left, Gerry Sherman, Aislinn Palmer and Ralph Baker. They’re on the patio of Port Hadlock’s Old Alcohol Plant, where the festival takes place this Saturday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

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