FEATURE INTERVIEW: MARLA GILLHAM
In honor of the Yachats Mushroom Festival October 21-23, The Yachats Gazette spoke with local resident Marla Gillham, one of the Festival’s founders.
TYG: What got you interested in mushrooms?
Marla: When I was nine years old, my family spent part of our summer vacation in the small, mountain town of Igls (pronounced “eagles”), Austria. My mother had grown up 185 miles away in Regensburg (translation: “Rain town”), Germany, and had known the edible mushrooms of the region very well. All five of us kids were to look for “pfefferling” (translation: “little peppery things”—known in Oregon as chanterelles). Figuring out where the next mushroom would be was so much fun for me that it seemed like the ‘shrooms were singing to me “over here… over here….” I found more mushrooms that day than my entire family!! This is my first memory of understanding the concept of “habitat.” I was hooked!!
TYG: What brought you to Yachats?
Marla: I had been coming to Yachats for over 20 years. I knew it was a great place to be close to nature. I wanted to walk the trails and beaches and maintain my health to the greatest extent possible. I hoped I would also find it to be a community that would support my desire to heal spiritually.
TYG: How did the first mushroom festival get started?
Marla: I wasn't one of the very earliest people conceptualizing the festival. I joined the effort at the first planning meeting. On August 9, 2000, Bev Wilson sent a second email to all members of the Yachats Chamber of Commerce, regarding this meeting. Melitta Marshall of Oregon House forwarded this second announcement to me. That announcement listed the ideas under consideration, at that time, as including:
- A pasta feed to benefit the Yachats Health Clinic;
- Fall fashion show;
- A mushroom "trail" between the Commons and the Lions' Hall;
- Presenters from the Extension Service (mushroom preservation, business development), Forest Service (permits, harvesting), local mycological society, Yachats mushroom growers and gatherers. Videos, mushroom display and identification, and a possible hike with Bruce Waugh.
I was glad to see that the planning committee was at least interested in some aspect of information-sharing… I was already thinking wayyyy beyond this extremely general level. But then, I am a forest ecologist and educator who had hiked the trails of the area for over 20 years and who loved collecting and consuming all edible wild foods, including the abundant mushrooms of the region. AND it just so happened that a bunch of my friends and colleagues at/from OSU were mycologists… I got online and searched all over the web for mushroom festivals with a true educational program. One where scientists interacted with the general public; something scientists are often criticized for not doing enough… but then, there are very few venues that support a "science for the people" approach.
- Farmers Market at the Lions' Hall with a beer and wine garden;
- Concession booth for food/other products;
- Gourmet mushroom chefs involved;
- Music ongoing with local talent;
- Chalk drawings on street;
- Impromptu Parade;
- Restaurant mushroom cook-off.
(Source: Email from Bev Wilson to area members of the Yachats Chamber of Commerce, Date Aug. 9, 2000 20:39, Subject: Village Mushroom Festival Planning Meeting-2nd announcement)
At the planning meeting, the first Fest was set for October 20 & 21, 2000. Present at this first meeting were
- festival co-chair Kathy Plunk (now Smith), (Yachats Inn) who kept the meetings running smoothly, and
- co-chair John Ullman (Bonaventura Catering) who organized a fundraiser dinner for the Health Clinic.
Other community members present at the first planning meeting included
- Caroline Bauman who volunteered the Polka Dots to be the entertainment for the fundraiser and who organized the music segment of the festival;
- Shawn Ferrell coordinated events at the Lion's Hall;
- Bev Wilson handled Youth Activities and festival communications (e.g. press releases);
- Yachats Mayor Paul Plunk coordinated needs with the City of Yachats and
- Myself. I offered to create a forest ecology / mycology educational program with mushroom walks, talks and displays.
Community members who were not at this meeting, but who had expressed an interest in participating included
- Susan Garner coordinated events in the Commons;
- Freda Halloran of the Lincoln County Mycological Society expressed an interest in "participating" in displays, talks, and demonstrations.
Possible Festival "events" suggested at the first planning meeting were
- Friday, 20 October
- Fundraiser dinner for the Yachats Community Health Clinic;
- First annual "Fungi Fashion Show" or "FunGuys and FunGals Fashion Fabulanza";
- crowning of Queen Chantrella or this year's Fungus King and Queen;
- Saturday, 21 October
- A breakfast to recognize the Commons volunteers;
- Educational walks with ecologists and mycologists at Cape Perpetua (suggested and organized by me);
- A van to shuttle people from the Commons to the Cape;
- Talks and demonstrations on mushrooms/mycology/ecology given by mycologists (GILLHAM: suggested and organized by me), Forest Service personnel, extension service, local harvesters, commercial growers, etc.;
- Sell books;
- "Make your own mushroom dish" booth;
- purchase wild mushrooms from local pickers;
- kids activities -- sidewalk chalk art, parade, a "mushroom trail";
(Source: Email from Kathy Plunk to attendees of the first planning meeting, 23 August 2000, 12:19, Subject: Village Mushroom Festival, minutes of 14 August 2000 planning meeting Bev Wilson, John Ullman, Shawn Ferrell, Caroline Bauman, Paul Plunk, Marla Gillham, and ? Susan Garner ?)
TYG: What changes have you seen in the mushroom festival over the years?
Marla: Seems like it gets bigger every year. I hope it is remaining high quality. Although I have contributed in substantial and meaningful ways in the last two years (2009 and 2010), it has physically become much more difficult for me to attend the festival as Parkinson's disease progresses. Most of all, I hope people are being safe, responsible, and ethical when collecting, and ALWAYS HAVING FUN!
TYG: Do you have a favorite mushroom?
Marla: ABSOLUTELY! For me, the best edible fungal, fruiting body (aka mushroom) is the matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare)! For sheer otherworldliness, I would have to say the very beautiful Fomitopsis cajanderi. And for its contribution to all our lives, because of its importance in conferring resilience (hence productivity) on old-growth forests, without a doubt my favorite fungus is Lobaria. Lobaria forms a symbiotic association with Nostoc, a cyanobacterium capable of "fixing" an excess (i.e. beyond its own needs) of 5 kg/hectare/year of biologically "inert" (unusable) atmospheric nitrogen. "Nitrogen fixation" is how nitrogen is converted into bioavailable form. Five kg/hectare/year is exactly the quantity of nitrogen needed by the old-growth forest to grow and be healthy. Shortening a long explanation… the huge amount of CO2 stored in forest soils depends greatly on Lobaria, which protects Nostoc and gives it a great place to live -- the canopy of old-growth trees.
1 Tricholoma magnivelare (c) Ryane Snow
2 Lobaria pulmonaria (c) Bernd Haynold
Interview: Heidi Travaglio of Heidi’s Homemade Food
TYG: So what’s going on with the shop?
Heidi: Well, we have a new member of our team. His name is Cliff Butler, and he’s originally from New York, but he’s lived a long, long time in Oregon. He’s our dinner chef now, and we’re collaborating on recipes and techniques. It’s very exciting that Cliff is cooking, because I get to do more with pastry, which was my first restaurant job in Yachats, in 1988!
TYG: Is that when you came to Yachats?
Heidi: Yes, in 1988—I started working at La Serre restaurant, which was a 30-year family business, down the street on Beach Street. One of the special places.
TYG: What brought you to Yachats?
Heidi: [laughs] Uh, finished with college, and no idea what to do. I knew some people here, and I came to visit them, and then I moved into a little trailer out in the woods by myself. At the end of the summer of ‘88 I moved onto Second Street, right behind the fire hall, and that was fun.
TYG: When did you open this restaurant?
Heidi: Ten years ago, actually! This is my tenth year in business here! We never had a party....
TYG: It’s not too late!
Heidi: It’s not!
TYG: Let’s talk about the big fire.
Heidi: The fire was three years ago this month—October 19, 2008. There was a devastating electrical fire in the ceiling, and everything was burned inside except the floor, which actually had burn marks, but my landlord did an awesome job sanding the floor. All the interior is new, and we’re already talking about a new color scheme....
TYG: Any architectural changes? Because I see an area clear of boards on the floor there....
Heidi: That’s a very good observation. These are old mill workers’ cottages from the 1920s, and then they were used as vacation rentals, and it’s been many different retail incarnations over the years, even since I’ve lived here. It used to be a place called the Hair Hut. This was also the original home of In Sheep’s Clothing gifts and video. [That area of the floor] is concrete because that’s where the fireplace was. That was a river rock fireplace, really pretty.
TYG: How’s the shop going business-wise?
Heidi: Very well. We actually decided this summer, after some other staff changes, to eliminate serving lunch. It makes my day easier. And there are lots of other choices for people to eat lunch. We are growing the dinner business, nicely. We’ll be closed in December and January for two months, and will celebrate the holidays and catch up on our hobbies, like walking on the beach and reading....
TYG: Anything else?
Heidi: We’re looking forward to a great month! October is a great month to be cooking and eating in Oregon. There is so much great food—apples, pears, and still fall raspberries. We just got fresh deep-water scallops last week from Alaska. Local mushrooms—I’ve got local chanterelles, local shiitakes, local spinach for the salads. [...] Cicely, a local grower, provides sunflowers for our tables [and] vegetables, which I try to showcase in my cooking, like on the veggie special pizzas (which your parents like) or in appetizer dishes. And I have other local growers. I feel pretty lucky.
Interview: Matthew Buonaiuto of The Green Salmon
The Yachats Gazette spoke with Matthew Buonaiuto about the Open Mic events that take place at the Green Salmon Coffee Company.
TYG: So, what is the Open Mic?
Matthew: The Open Mic is an event that happens once a month, the third Friday of every month, from 7:00 to 9:00 at night. It’s open to performances of any kind. There’s a number of musicians who play every month, also poets and writers who speak and perform. We’ve had stand-up comedians. We have had a rapper perform. I’m looking for as many different types of performances as possible.
TYG: When did you start doing this?
Matthew: The Open Mic started in December of 2010. We’re approaching our one-year anniversary, as a matter of fact. It’s been a fun, solid year.
TYG: How did you come to Yachats?
Matthew: By alien spacecraft! Just kidding. I had a couple good friends who lived here. After living in Portland for five years I had an opportunity to move here, a good job, an opportunity to live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived in.
TYG: What do you like best about Yachats?
Matthew: What I like best about Yachats is the people’s commitment to their community. There’s a lot of passionate, talented, good people here and they definitely make Yachats a very special place.
TYG: Anything else you want to add?
Matthew: I’d just like to invite everyone to come, and to thank those performers who have come and made it such a special event. I’d also really like to thank Deb Gisetto of the Green Salmon for opening up her space to allow people to commune here and share their talents together.
Interview: Barbara ADKINSON-SHEPHERD of The Village Bean
TYG: So how’s the shop going?
Barbara: Marvelous! It’s super busy. We haven’t slowed down any since summer. We are into our favorite time of year, fall, because of all the yummy drinks, and everybody gets cozy this time of year with all the fall weather.
TYG: How long have you been in business here?
Barbara: We’re going into our eighth year.
TYG: What did you do before you started here?
Barbara: I’m a graphic designer. I’ve been doing graphic design for over 30 years. I had my own design studio in California. I do all the graphic design for the city of Yachats, and some for the county and other businesses.
TYG: Do you have any new drinks or flavors?
Barbara: We do. We have all our fall special drinks—pumpkin spice lattes, and eggnog, and maple brown sugar breves... and we do them all frapped and iced and hot. We do mochas with toasted marshmallow. We also have oatmeal with all kinds of nuts, and oatmeal with brown sugar and cranberries. Our scones are our biggest hit here—we bake them fresh every morning, and people come just to order our scones. For the fall we have eggnog scones, and pumpkin scones with white chocolate drizzle frosting.
The Village Bean is located on Highway 101, next to the 76 Gas Station.
Stay tuned for next month’s fascinating interview with Yachats’s Fire Chief, Frankie Petrick!