Friday, April 22, 2011/lk
No one realized the Port of Cascade Locks dialed up a historical re-enactment when it unveiled its new statues of Sacagawea and Seaman the dog at Marine Park Wednesday afternoon.
Just as artist Heather Söderberg went to pull the wrapping off the statues the skies opened and unleashed a torrent of driving wind, pouring rain and pelting hail.
It was similar weather to what the Lewis and Clark Expedition encountered when it camped in the area on its return trip toward Missouri 205 years ago.
"In my 35 years in the art industry I've never had anything like that," Söderberg said. "I took it as a good sign."
Work to complete the sculptures went on until the final hours before the unveiling.
Earlier in the week Söderberg and her team of Don Berry, Breande Green, John Stippen, Mauro Alvarez and Dennis Daws were putting the finishing touches on the statue with Green handling the process of patina-ing the sculptures, or providing it with its coloration.
The day prior to the unveiling the sculptures were transported to the marine park, with a crane being used to put the half-ton sculpture of Sacagawea into place as port maintenance crews finished cleaning off the concrete and putting in the interpretive signs for the new addition.
Söderberg and her mom, Clarissa, spent the night in their truck at the park as the epoxy holding the statues into their base dried to make sure that no one walked off with the 500-pound statue of Seaman.
Despite the threat of bad weather several hundred people turned out at the park to watch the unveiling, and for the first half-hour or so they were treated to sunshine and songs from the Oregon Valley Boys band.
"All along the trip the presence of Sacagawea and her baby, Pomp, signaled to tribes that the invaders were not a warring party," Cascade Locks Port General Manager Chuck Daughtry said in presenting the sculptures. "She was a symbol of peace ... on this day 206 years ago April 13, 1805, after navigating the rapids Captain Lewis and a party from the Corps of Discovery came to this side of the river to trade for canoes and pelts and dogs. He was accompanied by Sacagawea and Captain Lewis' ever-present companion, Seaman, the Newfoundland dog.
"This is a day of celebration. Cascade Locks is the heart of the Gorge and the Marine Park is the Heart of Cascade Locks. Now Sacagawea and Seaman are at the very heart of the Marine Park."
As Daughtry moved from introducing local dignitaries to introducing Söderberg the wind began to pick up. As Söderberg went to unveil the sculptures the wind brought in lashing hail. Moments later as Daughtry attempted to dedicate the sculptures to longtime port commissioner Jean McLean, the wind was threatening to blow over the spectator tents - which were not doing much good anyway as rain was being blown sideways through them.
At that point most of the guests retreated inside for a lunch spread and to wait for the storm to pass.
"I'm just so happy that I got to be a part of something like this," Söderberg said. "I am just extremely pleased and so happy with all the people that came."
Söderberg sculpted the back of Seaman to make it more friendly for children to sit on it. While no one was sitting on it during the squall, she said several people did after it cleared. And when the weather cleared and the crowds parted, a rainbow arched across the river right behind where the sculptures now stand, and are likely to stand for generations to come.
Söderberg could only see that as a good omen.
"People said that was Sacagawea's spirit blessing it."