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Port Orchard morphs into Cedar Cove

The much-anticipated transformation of Port Orchard into Cedar Cove is now in full swing, with thousands of people pouring into town in celebration of author Debbie Macomber and her vision of small-town life.

On Wednesday, a full day before its scheduled beginning, downtown was swarming with early arrivals and vendors who were setting up for the four-day event.

That afternoon Macomber hosted a “knit-in” at her yarn shop, which was filmed for a nationwide broadcast scheduled for Thursday on CNN and other networks.

An opening ceremony took place yesterday on the waterfront, including Macomber and several local elected representatives (see a video at www.portorchardindependent.com).

This is to be followed by a reserved cruise between Port Orchard and Suquamish tonight and a character parade, during which local residents will play their fictional counterparts from the Cedar Cove series.

The parade begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and will wind along the downtown area.

Throughout, attendees will be treated to bus tours and social events, many hosted by Macomber herself.

An arts and crafts fair that features a series of Cedar Cove-themed artisans will operate on the waterfront from 10 a.m. every morning (ending at 6 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday).

Cedar Cove Days is the culmination of nearly two years of planning by Port Orchard residents Jerry Childs and Cindy Lucarelli (Childs is serving his first term on the city council, while Lucarelli is running for a council position this fall).

The idea was to leverage the experience for people who Port Orchard after reading Macomber’s books and are looking for a concrete vision of Cedar Cove.

Creating this event is better for all concerned — visitors are assured of a real experience at a time when Macomber is in town to greet them.

And the town will benefit from an organized influx of tourists who get to see the Port Orchard with its best foot forward.

Planning Cedar Cove Days has weathered some bumps, according to Lucarelli.

“When we first started, we had a higher projection for participants,” she said. “We had to scale back after the economic collapse, but now we are right on target.”

Lucarelli said the last tour bus ticket was sold earlier this week, so the only ones now available will be trade-ins.

She said the event, which cost about $160,000 to produce, will break even at the very least.

She predicts that it will make a small profit, around $10,000, which will go to charity.

On Wednesday, Macomber visited the downtown area and surprised participants by boarding several tour buses and giving a short welcoming speech. This provides the event’s template, as Macomber’s warm and welcoming persona makes visitors feel comfortable in a place they have never actually been.

While the first phase of the Cedar Cove series is scheduled to wind up with the ninth volume, published in concert with this week’s event, locals hope the event will repeat.

“I think that Cedar Cove will change us as a city,” Childs said at this week’s city council meeting. “It will give us a vigor that we have not had in the past.”

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