Come on ‘Back to the Farm’; highlights include a barn dance, contests, live music, dinner, and other good ol’ fashioned fun

Members of the King family pose in their farm finest, 1905. The King farm is now home of the San Juan Historical Museum, which provided this photo from its collection.  - San Juan Historical Society
Members of the King family pose in their farm finest, 1905. The King farm is now home of the San Juan Historical Museum, which provided this photo from its collection.
— image credit: San Juan Historical Society

This is the kind of event the grandparents might have gone to when they were kids and cows were as common as cars are now.

The San Juan Historical Museum’s first annual Back to the Farm barn dance and fund-raiser is Sept. 19, 3:30-8:30 p.m., on the museum grounds.

The museum’s heritage buildings will be open for tours. Dinner begins at 4:30 p.m.: pork barbecued by Jason Black, beans, cole slaw, rolls, watermelon, berry cobbler for dessert, and lemonade.

Antique cars will be on display. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes. You can dress up and get an old-time photo taken. Children can pet animals in the petting zoo. There will be surprise arrests and incarceration in the old county jail. A spittoon is being shined up for the watermelon seed-spitting contest.

A highlight of the evening: A barn dance and a jig-with-a-pig contest. The entertainment lineup includes ragtime pianist David Bayley, folk banjoist Mike Cohen and Sugar on the Floor, singer Rhianna Franklin, and country musician Dick Rich.

There will be a live auction; items include a biplane ride, historic photos, a pie a month for a year from Ruthe Ramirez, and a stay in a cabin on the Oregon coast, donated by Steve and Judy Kennedy.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $5 per child 13 and younger. Tickets cover the cost of dinner and all activities, including old-time photograph. For tickets, call Board President Mary Jean Cahail or museum director Kevin Loftus at 378-3949.

The event is a fund-raiser for the museum, which provides exhibits and programs related to the island’s history from pre-settlement to present day. The museum property is the last remnant of the once-expansive James King farm; the farmhouse and other buildings date from 1894.

The museum also preserves a piece of rural open space in an urban neighborhood, and hosts several community events through the year. The museum helped produce the book “Friday Harbor,” published by Arcadia Publishing Co. in time for the town’s centennial.

But the museum needs help. “A majority of our buildings need paint and a lot of repair,” said Loftus, the museum’s director. “The carriage house has some rotten boards that need to be replaced, and the building needs to be painted too.”

In the last year, the 1894 county jail was re-roofed and the 1894 King farmhouse received a new foundation. The museum sold a historic preservation easement to the San Juan County Land Bank to raise money for the perpetual care of the museum buildings, and is trying to not spend all of the money on deferred maintenance; the farmhouse foundation cost one-fourth of the money the museum received for the easement.

Loftus said project sponsorships are being accepted. For example, if you sponsor the painting of the county jail, you receive a tax deduction for the value of the work and signage will be posted noting that the building was painted due to your generosity.

Cahail said the family event is called “Back to the Farm” because the museum wants the community to become familiar with Friday Harbor’s rural roots.

To inquire about available project sponsorships, call 378-3949 or e-mail

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