It's showtime: Renton turns 100
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
OK, trivia buffs, what do Jimi Hendrix, coal mines, Will Rogers, Sherman tanks and Charles Lindbergh have in common?
They all make cameo appearances in "Rentennial," the theatrical production that celebrates Renton's centennial.
Although all were part of Renton's history, don't take this historical musical revue too seriously. The opening number, when presented at the Renton City Council meeting Monday night, was greeted with grins as the actors sang about the city slogan, "Ahead of the Curve," followed by a joke about the city being named after a man who never set foot in Renton.
"Rentennial" takes a lighthearted approach to Renton history, writer Joyce Holt and director Diane Zebert agree.
"When I started researching material for the play, I found some fascinating and funny stuff," Holt said.
Another was discovering that World War II night-shift workers from Boeing and Paccar occasionally collided with Sherman tanks as they drove home.
"Paccar built tanks during World War II," Holt said. "Because of the blackouts, women getting off the night shift drove with hooded headlights and had to watch out for tanks on test runs."
Renton Arts Plan Together, a consortium of arts organizations, is producing the show. More than 50 volunteer actors, including three generations of one family and five members of another, showed up for auditions. Everyone got parts.
"I didn't know what to expect when we asked the community to be part of the show," Zebert said. "But they're bringing big hearts and a sense of community to the production. Their enthusiasm is contagious."
One of the lead characters is Native American Henry Moses of the Duwamish Tribe, who goes from babyhood to old age during the play. Much of the play is seen through his eyes, including such events as the great flood of 1911, the lowering of Lake Washington when the Montlake Cut opened and the disappearance of the Black River. The play also covers Moses leading the Renton High School basketball team to a state championship. (Students selected Renton High's nickname, Indians, to honor Moses.)
"Rentennial" will be staged Sept. 7-9 at Lindbergh High School, 16426 128th Ave. S.E., Renton.
Vignettes from the show will be presented at the Centennial Birthday Bash picnic and party in Liberty Park on Sept. 6, the anniversary day of the 1901 incorporation.
The celebration has been a yearlong effort and includes several projects.
A free 2001 centennial calendar featuring photographs and significant dates is available at Renton City Hall and at the Renton Historical Museum.
The museum also has an exhibit documenting Renton from the 1800s through current times. The city of Renton has been distributing a flier titled "100 Reasons to Celebrate Renton's Centennial," listing historical events.
More than 20 engraved stone markers are being installed for the centennial. Many of the sites predate cityhood.
Markers have already been set up at the site of the first sawmill (1853) at the corner of today's South Tobin and Rainier Avenue, the Black River School (1854), the Four Cow Wide Tunnel (1877), the first church (1885), the Renton Clay Works (1901), and the Triple XXX Barrel (1930) at Rainier and Third Avenue, the first drive-in restaurant on the West Coast.
Another plaque marks the entrance to the Renton Coal Co. mine (1873). Capt. William Renton, operator of the Port Blakely sawmill, underwrote the opening of the mine but never visited the city named in his honor.
The party at Liberty Park on Sept. 6 will include a no-host picnic, free ice cream and cake, games, entertainment and fireworks. Residents are asked to wear red, white and blue and to bring a picnic, blankets and chairs to the celebration.
Sherry Grindeland can be reached at 206-515-5633 or email@example.com.