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Spring Fling Festival brings out the best in local communities

As people from throughout the state begin funneling into the Yakima Valley next week for Spring Barrel Tasting weekend, those living in surrounding communities are hoping to entice those visitors to stay and enjoy the other fruits the Valley has to offer.

This will be the second year local chambers of commerce have pulled together for the Spring Fling Festival. This year the festival includes activities in communities from Benton City to Zillah.

Carrie Stone with the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce noted the Spring Fling Festival celebrates the area's wine culture, as well as the area's diverse communities.

"It's a chance for tourists to really be in the community and see what the communities themselves have to offer," Stone said.

She noted that just as the Spring Barrel Tasting event gives visitors a taste of what's to come, the Spring Fling Festival gives tourists a more in-depth look at the communities in the Yakima Valley.

"It's been huge for wineries to have this tasting," Stone said. She added that she feels the Spring Fling Festival will grow to be just as important.

This year's Spring Fling Festival is set to take place today through April 24. Festival activities are scheduled throughout those nine days.

"The mid-week activities are key to making this festival a success," said Eric Miller, president of the Spring Fling Festival Committee. "If you look at the (Skagit Valley) Tulip Festival, they have traffic jams on a Wednesday."

The activities planned to help keep tourists in the Valley during the next week include everything from mud bog races in Benton City to a salmon dinner offered by the Yakama Indian Nation.

Stone noted that many of the activities are planned with the whole family in mind, adding that Spring Fling Festival is not something strictly for the over 21 crowd.

The Spring Fling Festival is set to kick-off today (Friday) with several different dinner options being offered by the Yakama Nation. The Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center Restaurant is offering an all-you-can-eat barbecue rib dinner, as well as a salmon dinner, while Legends Casino in Toppenish is offering its seafood buffet. In Granger, visitors are being invited to start the festival with a tour of the community and its life-sized dinosaurs. Granger is also offering bike rentals at Hisey Park for those who want to take a leisurely ride through the colorful community.

Saturday, April 16, Granger will host the Spring Fling Festival Golf Tournament, starting at 8 a.m. at the Cherry Hill Golf Course, while Toppenish's Northern Pacific Railroad Museum will offer Choo Choos and Chili.

Shelley Bjornson with the Toppenish Chamber of Commerce explained that the local museum will be offering people a chance to ride a caboose around the museum yard, tour the railroad museum and share in a bowl of chili. The Choo Choos and Chili event will take place beginning at 11 a.m. at the Northern Pacific Railway Museum located at Asotin and S. Toppenish avenues in downtown Toppenish.

Bjornson said the chili event will serve as a way to highlight one of the community's many museums. Toppenish will also be offering tours of its murals as seen from the back of a horse-drawn carriage throughout the day this Saturday.

Tuesday, April 19, Prosser will be hosting a five-day event that will include wine tasting and quilting shows in the community's downtown area. The wine tasting will continue later in the week, with Zillah hosting a wine tasting and auction on Thursday, April 21. This event is set to take place at the Old Furniture Warehouse, 505 Railroad Ave. in Zillah, from 6 to 9 p.m. The cost is $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

Friday, April 22, will be another busy day when it comes to the Spring Fling Festival. Sunnyside will be hosting its Spring Fling Scramble Golf Tournament and Asparagus Extravaganza. The four-person scramble is set to take place at Black Rock Creek Golf Course at 31 Ray Rd., with a 1 p.m. shotgun start time. The Asparagus Extravaganza, which will also be held at the golf course, will take place throughout the day.

Also on April 22, the Yakama Indian Nation will again be offering its mouth watering dinner options, including barbecued ribs, salmon and seafood. Zillah will host its Big Bird Fly-In April 22-24 at the end of Cheyne Road. Eric Miller, who is helping organize the Spring Fling events in Zillah, noted that the fly-in should start about 4 p.m. on April 22, and at 9 a.m. on April 23-24.

Saturday, April 23, brings with it a slew of other activities for both community members and tourists to enjoy. That day Benton City will host its mud bog races. Emma Vaughn, who is helping to plan the Benton City event, said the mud bog races offer a fun time for the entire family. She added that with vehicles racing in four different classes the fun, which begins at 10 a.m. in a special mud pit created just off of Horn Road, near Ki-Be Market, should continue through most of the day. She noted that the races will most likely continue until that evening. And mud bog racing won't be the only thing available in Benton City. Vaughn said they plan on having different food booths lining the raceway, offering visitors a chance to spend their whole day at the races.

Also taking place on Saturday, April 23, will be a flea market in Zillah. The flea market will include a community-wide yard sale and include vendors located in the city's downtown area. The event is set to take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday will also include mural tours throughout the day in Toppenish and the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum Choo Choos and Chili event starting at 11 a.m. in Toppenish.

The Spring Fling Festival will conclude with an Art in the Park event in Benton City on Sunday, April 24. The event will feature work from Eve Shaw, whose book "Grandmother's Alphabet" was awarded the 1998 Benjamin Franklin Award. Other artists taking part in the show include Benton City's Robert Dunlap and Lorna Deckert and Linda Smith from Montana.

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