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Our top 10 stories of 2018

02/11/2019

UNION GAP, Wash. -- It is a great privilege to get to write articles regarding Union Gap every couple of weeks, and it has been a very rewarding experience. We’ve received a lot of feedback on a number of the stories, and I thought it would be fun to share our top 10 stories based on the overall interaction we’ve received.

10. Disc golf

In January, we announced that the disc golf course at Union Gap’s Fullbright Park opened in late 2017. The course has 15 baskets (holes) and has proven to be popular with disc players throughout the Valley. You can visit the Yakima Valley Disc Golf Facebook page and see many golfers’ scores and how they do on each hole.

The course will continue to be improved upon, and in October volunteer crews installed 15 throwing pads for the course. Tee signs will be going up in 2019.

When you head out to play, we’d love to see you post some photos on our Union Gap social media (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram).

9. Another chance to celebrate tamale greatness

What a year it has been for Los Hernandez Tamales after winning the James Beard America’s Classics Award in 2018. The already popular restaurant was often seen with lines a block long during the peak of its Asparagus & Pepperjack Cheese Tamale season.

In October, Los Hernandez was one of the featured restaurants at the James Beard “Taste America-Seattle” event. The event was held at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle and featured leading “foodies,” other James Beard award winners and visiting chef all-stars from San Francisco. Los Hernandez was there and had one of the longest lines the entire evening as people wanted to sample the tamales and meet the Los Hernandez team.

8. Give Fruit Mix and Bubble Tea a try

Local restaurants and their owners continue to be a popular story subject. Fruit Mix and Bubble Tea in Union Gap is no exception. The article talked about its fun and interesting Mexican treats and desserts. After the article ran, there was a nice increase in business — and it’s now especially known for its avocado bubble tea, as that was the flavor I first sampled there.

I even went to a meeting and the person I met with brought me an avocado bubble tea after reading the article. I continue to love the originality that Mona serves up at Fruit Mix and am always excited to try something new and fun. (Note, Fruit Mix and Bubble Tea is closed for the winter and will reopen Feb. 28).

7. Quartet of coffee shops keep customers happy

There are four locally owned coffee stands in Union Gap, and I got to meet the owners in person or via phone interview for this story. I found their different stories and how they became coffee shop owners quite interesting. I also got to sample some great-tasting coffees and Red Bull energy drink creations that I’d never tried before, and found them delicious.

Head on over to Gap Coffee, Stop-N-Go Express-o, High Caliber and Peek-A-Brew for some great seasonal drinks.

6. Food writers dropped in, dined and were dazzled

During the summer, Union Gap had the great privilege of hosting two travel/food writers: Heather McCurdy from New Hampshire, the founder of the popular food and travel blog “Real: the Kitchen and Beyond”; and Laura Sampson, creator of “Little House Big Alaska,” which focuses on food, travel and do-it-yourself projects.

We had a couple of great days of tours and dining experiences, visited the Ag Museum, the Yakima Farmers Market and more. They have continued to be Union Gap ambassadors the rest of the year, and if you search their names you’ll find a ton of other great stories I think you’ll find interesting. They also loved the bubble teas and the tamales!

I thought it was so creative how they purchased fresh produce at Fruit City and made their own dinner in their room at the Best Western Plus Ahtanum Inn — live on Facebook.

5. Sampling healthy options at Mill Creek Natural Foods

The fact that the Mill Creek Natural Foods story made it into our top five shows how much people have an interest in a healthier life. I had a wonderful time interviewing Mary VandeGraaf and learning about her business and, more importantly, her customers.

It was interesting to hear about the diverse range of customers Mill Creek has, everyone from health and beauty do-it-yourselfers (DIY) to those searching for weight loss solutions, gluten-free customers, vegans, and those looking for alternative therapy solutions and pain management solutions. Plus, it’s always great to see local businesses thriving in an area that could be considered more of a niche.

4. Asparafest!

Following on the heels of Los Hernandez Tamales winning the James Beard Award, Union Gap launched its first Asparafest! to celebrate the award at Los Hernandez. There was a mariachi band and asparagus-spear-tossing contests, and legendary broadcaster Enrique Cerna gave the introductory speech and recognized Los Hernandez Tamales for its accomplishments. And that was only the start of the day.

The entire community got involved and guests were able to enjoy Major’s Restaurant’s deep-fried asparagus; Old Town Pump created a barbecued asparagus with a balsamic reduction; the boys at Fruit City not only had fresh asparagus, but Hop Town Pizza was on location serving its asparagus and smoked garlic pizza. The bacon-wrapped asparagus cheeseburger on a pretzel bun at the Pepp’rmint Stick Drive In was simply mouthwatering.

It wasn’t only locals who enjoyed this event; we talked to several people from the Seattle and Portland areas. We can’t wait for Asparafest! in 2019! (Depending on which metric I opted to use, Asparafest! could have also been the No. 1 story.)

3. Union Gap, Boston connected by food

If you’d told me I’d be able to connect Boston to Union Gap via tourism a few years ago, I would’ve thought you were a little crazy. But there I was, in Boston’s famed North End area, delivering tamales to fellow America’s Classic Award winners Galleria Umberto.

The owners loaded me up with their specialties, including pizza, pizzette, panzerotti and arancini, and they were all delicious. Their restaurant has been named one of the top 25 pizza places in the U.S. by Adam Richman of the popular travel show “Secret Eats,” and from the never-ending line of people on a weekday afternoon, I believe it. It’s worth the trip if Boston is in your future travel plans.

2. Wing your way to Old Town Pump for original Buffalo sauces

When I took Stephanie Forrer of the popular food/travel website “Eat, Drink, Travel, Y’all?” to Old Town Pump Saloon and we tried the chicken wings with the original Buffalo wing sauce from the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., I was hooked and had to learn the story.

The owner, Joyce Nelson, was glad to share the tale with me and I discovered that Old Town Pump is the only restaurant/tavern on the West Coast serving the Anchor Bar’s original sauce. The Anchor Bar invented Buffalo wings in 1964.

This story ran just prior to the Super Bowl this year, and chicken wing sales were through the roof for Old Town Pump. If you haven’t experienced them, it’s time to do so.

1. Skateland celebrates 70 years ?in Union Gap

The fact that Skateland celebrating 70 years in Union Gap was our top story surprised me a little. Owners Kim and Connie Eisenzimmer were shocked also when I told them. However, they did mention that during the 70th anniversary celebration they had scores of people tell them how much Skateland had impacted their lives. For many, it was their first date; others met their spouses there — they said the heart-warming stories went on and on.

The Eisenzimmers are also known for all they do in the community. Kim and Connie were recently recognized in the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Yakima Magazine for their years of service with their “Adopt a Family Into Your Heart For Life” organization, which welcomes community members to join them for a family-style meal each Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

They’ve also continued to evolve their business to more than a skating rink with the introduction of The Vine Venue, which is used for everything from weddings and quinceaneras to business meetings.

I look forward to seeing how they’ll continue to grow in the future and to see what innovative ideas they’ll come up with next.

• Eric Patrick is director of tourism for Union Gap. Email him at info@visituniongap.com.

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