We pulled into Tieton, Washington (pop. 1,191) late Sunday afternoon. At first glance, the place looked in decline. The small town square was deserted and the Mexican restaurant was closed. We saw a few people walking towards and old warehouse and followed them to a Day of the Dead festival, put on by a group of artists and local Mexicans. It was amazing.
Tieton, it turns out, has a lively culture, thanks in part to two men from Seattle who bought an abandoned apple warehouse and transformed it into lofts and studios. You can find a letterpress studio, a lighting designer and exhibit space in the Mighty Tieton building. A Mexican bakery and laundromat have survived on the town square, along once-abandoned stores that are being restored.
Half of the people who live in Tieton are Mexican and a group of women were selling tamales and tacos at the festival. Inside the large space, prayer altars were adorned with traditional Mexican paper cut-outs, chrysanthemums, skulls and candles.
We missed the traditional Aztec dancers but heard two young Mexican sisters perform. The local folks were friendly and by the end of the day we had two offers to park our rig on private property downtown.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.