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Chamber ED jumps feet first into duties

Much is ado at the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce.

After being hired as executive director in early August, Vickie Maples is wasting no time getting to know her co-workers and the community. She's meeting the chamber's membership, greeting tourists while answering questions at the visitor's information center, and jumping feet first into projects such as preparing for the second annual Business to Business Expo in October, organizing the budget and encouraging participation in the 2009 Irrigation Festival next May.

"I've always had a soft spot for the Irrigation Festival," Maples said about the annual event. "I grew up hearing stories and seeing pictures of my mom, who was a princess three years in high school."

Maples was born and raised in California but spent summers as a child visiting her grandparents in Sequim. Her mother, originally a Cameron, was born in Sequim, grew up on a dairy farm at the corner of Kitchen-Dick and Woodcock roads and graduated from Sequim High School before moving to California.

With the upcoming 2009 Hood Canal bridge closure, Maples is trying to get people living on the peninsula more involved than ever in the Irrigation Festival.

"We aren't sure how much it will affect the festival, or if it will at all," she said about the six-week floating bridge closure May-June 2009, "so we are just reminding people that this is a hometown, community event and to get involved, volunteer and help decorate the float."

Maples also is encouraging peninsula residents - not just tourists - to take advantage of the wealth of information available at the visitor's information center, located at 1192 E. Washington St.

"It's not just for tourists," she said about the center. "We have a wonderful volunteer staff and it might be beneficial for you to visit."

Pamphlets of information, Forest Service parking passes, maps and tickets to area events are available at the visitor's center.

"Looking for a day trip? Stop by for ideas," Maples said. "Have friends or relatives visiting? Pick up information for them, including a restaurant guide with menus and hours."

The visitor's center is a good place to meet people from all over the world. Just last week, families from as far away as England and Malaysia signed the guest book, Maples said.

According to office administrator Jeri Smith, the visitor's center is a very important piece of the town.

"It's the first impression all our visitors get of Sequim itself. Our volunteers are hospitable and knowledgeable, " Smith said.

"Oftentimes," Smith continued proudly, speaking about the center almost as if it were one of her children, "tourists tell us this is the best visitor's center they've seen on their trip."

The chamber offers more than just brochures with information about peninsula attractions. A rare learning experience for students exists at the visitor's center that not very many people know about, Smith said. Customer service training is available for teens who want to volunteer shifts at the center. At the end of the training session, students receive a formal letter to include in their scholarship notebook.

"It looks good for them and is good for us," Smith said. "It's a win-win situation."

The visitor's center is open seven days a week and has free Wi-Fi available. For more information, call 683-6197. The phone system is being updated, Smith said, so be patient.



The Clallam County Reads schedule of events for "To Kill a Mockingbird" in the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave., and the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

• Movie and discussion at 7 p.m. in Sequim on Oct. 3 and Port Angeles Oct. 4.

• Book discussions at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 in Sequim and Port Angeles Oct. 10 and at 11 a.m. in Sequim Oct. 15 and Port Angeles Oct. 11.

• Movie music performance at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23 in the Port Angeles High School auditorium.

• Discussion with "To Kill a Mockingbird" play director Fracaswell Hyman at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 in Port Angeles.

• More available online at www.nols.org or at any library system branch.

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