By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
Ghost hunts will not die. Colfax has signed an agreement with Anthony Girges, owner of the St. Ignatius Hospital building, to rent the structure for at least another year and keep haunted attractions going at the building for the time being. “We’re back. We never left, but we’re definitely back now,” said Valoree Gregory, Colfax unified executive director. “It’s ours for another year.” Last year, the St. Ignatius building was booked for what was to be a one-time Haunted Hospital event in October prior to Halloween. The Haunted Hospital proved to be a popular attraction, resulting in the establishment of continued daytime tours of the building, the Discovery Channel coming to town to film about the hospital and “Nightmare Before the Holidays” and “Midsummer Fright” events being booked. Now, Gregory said, more planning is underway. “We’ll do ghost hunts again, and we’ve added things for this year,” she said. Colfax Arts Council is planning for a scary movie night in the hospital building. Sleepovers are also planned. Gregory said she thinks air mattresses will be set up in the building, and those who wish to attend can enjoy a night in the hospital with activities throughout the evening. She said there will likely be an adult evening booked for sleepovers, as well as a teenagers-only event. She also plans to continue with daytime tours of the building. Saturday, Colfax teen Jayden Burt organized a cleanup of the St. Ignatius building for his Eagle Scout badge. “They were up here all day,” said Gregory. “He had tons of volunteers.” Burt and his volunteers were able to clean up some of the plaster, the hallways, move beds back into rooms, sweep all over the hospital and cleaned up the yard. “We moved all the plaster and paint chips out of the way, and moved the furniture and staged the rooms just like it was an actual hospital again,” said Burt. Burt said he was originally going to do a landscaping project around his church building, but that project fell through and he had to quickly find another project to organize. He said he had about 25 volunteers from his family and from the two local scout troops. Gregory said the hospital is now ready for a year of frights. Information about upcoming events as they are planned and announced: www.explorecolfax.com
By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
At this time last year, St. John was facing losing much of its park equipment, leaving the town with essentially no park. However, sisters Valerie Brewer and Jessiann Loomis started raising funds and rallied the community behind the St. John Park Fund. About $65,000 has been raised since last October, and the town is now gearing up for new park equipment to be installed next month. “We were able to do it because the town came together in full force and made it happen,” said Loomis. Brewer said the fund ended up being bigger than she imagined. “It’s exceeded our wildest dreams,” she said, noting they originally were hoping to be able to install a tiny structure with one slide. “Now we have this structure with five slides. Our goal was $40,000, and we blew that out of the water.” The new park equipment will be shipped at the end of the month, and it will be installed starting Sept. 26. “We’re setting aside that whole week and into that weekend and just going until its done,” said Loomis. The large swings at the park will end up staying, and two more structures – the bouncer and small swings – will also stay but will be relocated. “We’ll reconfigure while we’re in there with the equipment,” Loomis explained. All of the other park equipment except one piece has been removed. Much of the equipment was removed earlier this year, with access to use the park limited through the summer. “I’m so excited. I have three little ones, and I can’t wait until we have it back,” said Brewer. The $65,000 was raised through donations from the community, as well as a $20,000 donation from the St. John Community Club raised during the Winterfest auction, a $5,000 donation from the Roy and Leona Nelson Foundation in Spokane, a $1,500 grant from Northwest Farm Credit in Colfax and other small grants. Brewer said some residents raised funds through selling pies at Christmas time or selling breakfast burritos. A small change drive in the community brought in $3,000. Loomis said she is so thankful to be able to see the community come together in this way. “We’re just really, really thankful for everyone who came together to make this happen,” she said. “A big thanks to everyone for their help and their patience as we’ve worked this out.” Brewer said she hopes the equipment lasts a long time. “We’re fifth generations in this community, and the fact that we can pass this onto our kids is awesome,” she said. Brewer added that they are hoping to have enough leftover funds to add a half court basketball area next year and also to spruce up the T-ball area at the park. Those who want to volunteer time to help with the park equipment installation can contact Brewer and Loomis through the St. John Park Fund Facebook page.
Kim Nguyen has added some sewing supplies to the former barber shop space on Main Street. While in town recently, she said she hopes to offer sewing classes here in the future and possibly have a tenant in the space.
By Kara McMurray Gazette Reporter
Texas businesswoman Kim Nguyen and her husband Phong Nguyen were in Colfax for much of the last three weeks. While here, they checked on the tenants in their downtown buildings, worked to clean up some of the buildings and discussed the plans for those buildings as well. The Nguyens have purchased six downtown buildings in Colfax since February, which include the Old Rose Theater, the Masonic Temple building and the buildings which house Colfax Security, the Washington State Grain Inspection Office, Main Street Books, Edward Jones Financial, Colfax Computer Services and the Hen House Chicks. At the majority of her buildings, Kim Nguyen has tenants and will continue to lease to those tenants, but at the Old Rose Theater and the Masonic Temple building, she is working on renovations and upgrading those spaces. “We will see what is the way we’ll figure it out,” said Nguyen. “I’m still working on what we’re coming up with.” The Masonic Temple building, in the lower portion, houses the Whitman County Gazette, which will stay, and the former barber shop space vacated earlier this summer by barber Terry Vietz. It also includes upstairs spaces which were used as meeting spaces or rented out. In the former barber shop space, Nguyen has moved in some sewing supplies and hopes to set up a sewing business there. City Administrator Mike Rizzitiello told the Gazette Nguyen may have plans for a restaurant in the building. “At the Masonic building, we discussed putting a restaurant upstairs where the big rooms are at,” he said. Nguyen said she is not sure if she will put in a restaurant, but she is at least thinking about an event space and running a catering space there. “I did not go to the point on what I would decide based on budget and grants,” she said. Rizzitiello said he and Mayor Todd Vanek have been having meetings with Nguyen to discuss her plans and offer suggestions. “We’ve been advising her,” he said. “We’ve told her we’re in need of stores, restaurants and stuff that’s open later.” Some of Nguyen’s initial ideas included a wedding dress shop and tailoring shop at the Old Rose Theater building, but Rizzitiello said he would not be certain Colfax could support a business like that. “We’ll keep working with her,” he said. “The whole purpose is to get active uses in there. Everything we’re doing along those lines is to foster that.” Rizzitiello said that for Nguyen’s plans to restore the Old Rose Theater building to a theater space as well as a shop and to convert the Masonic Temple building to some type of restaurant funding needs to fall into place. “The big issue is looking at funding. She does have some funding, but we’re looking into other things, too,” he said, noting the possibility of looking into grants and property taxes specific to the restoration of historic buildings. Nguyen said she is hoping some fundraisers might be able to be organized to help with the process of restoring the buildings, and she said it could take some time before anything is up and running in those spaces. “We’ll continue working on that slow by slow,” she said, noting that it is about cleaning up the spaces right now. “It could take three, four or more years, maybe longer.” Rizzitiello said it has been a good experience to work with Nguyen, though there were initial reservations with her having purchased the buildings sight unseen and living so far away. “She’s definitely not an absentee person,” he said. “We’re happy about that. She does keep reappearing, which is a good thing.”