From the carloads of dressed-to-the-nines ladies who descend on the city's finest French restaurant, to the tarts who roar into a local pool hall to compete in the annual Esprit pool tournament, Esprit has woven itself into the fabric of Port Angeles.
The question arises over and over...why Port Angeles? How could a small fishing and logging community come to host an event like Esprit for over 20 years in a row?
In 1989, Janice Van Cleve of Emerald City began planning an event called "90 in 90" to bring together all 90 members of Emerald City at a convention in 1990. As the plans developed, Emerald City invited The Cornbury Society and NWGA to join in.
The choice of location was, of course, a major decision and among the criteria were to hold the convention in a pleasant location far enough away so that it felt like a vacation, yet not too close to run the risk of encountering friends and family. Many locations were considered, and Port Angeles was among them. Naturally, the question of whether the convention would be welcomed in any location was foremost in everyone's minds, and upon discussing the proposal with the powers that be in Port Angeles, it was decided that Port Angeles met all the requirements, and the event was considered by Port Angeles to be a welcome injection of tourist dollars in an otherwise stagnant fishing and logging community.
"90 in 90" ran from Wednesday through Sunday in the Fall of 1990, included an opening wine and cheese party, parties, and many newly opened minds in the community of Port Angeles. By all accounts, it was a resounding success. The three organizations created a committee that would hold the event each year and they gave the convention the official name of Esprit. Although the first Esprit was actually held in 1991, it was modeled after "90 in 90" so 1990 is credited as being the first year of the event.
The relationship between Esprit and Port Angeles has grown in other ways as well.
- In 1999, Esprit had grown so large that the grand parties at the conclusion of Esprit had outgrown the Red Lion Hotel ballrooms. The Naval Elks Lodge opened its doors and for the first time, Esprit held its graduation and gala party in a ballroom steeped in history.
- Each year, a group of Esprit attendees visits Peninsula Community College and presents several panel discussions for students and the general public.
- The local newspaper, the Peninsula Daily News, regularly runs several educational and favorable articles during Esprit.
- Some of the dances and parties at Esprit are open to the public and several hundred people from Port Angeles attended events during Esprit 2004. While there is a modest admission charge for the public, Esprit donates all of the funds to local charities.
- Members of the Red Lion hotel staff have sometimes joined in on the Friday night Talent Show.
- During Esprit 2004, a significant new step was taken with several principal members of Esprit being invited to speak at a Port Angeles Rotary meeeting. Normally this is a very reserved and conservative group, but the presentation was wildly successful and entertaining for all involved.
- Starting in 2005, The Nasty Habits, a Seattle-based TG band, began playing in various clubs in town and they have been setting house records ever since.
- In 2007, a new partnership with the arts community unfolded. Docents took Esprit attendees on walking tours of local galleries and city artworks.
- In 2012, after a year of hoping to get in with Esprit in some way, the Port Scandalous Roller Derby teamed up with Esprit to add a new event on Wednesday night which involved the skaters, Esprit attendees, and Port Angeles locals in an evening of wild fun.
Over the years, as Esprit grew, the town of Port Angeles grew in its own way. Support from City Hall, the police, and the business community was present from the begining, but as the economic benefits became more apparent with each passing year, the business community began to welcome Esprit with greater eagerness every year. Today, you will see "Welcome Esprit" signs posted in store windows near the hotel. By any measure, Esprit is the largest and most significant convention Port Angeles sees during the year.
Local silk painter Karen Sistek, who also hosts a scarf painting activity, donated her exclusive 3'x6' Esprit 2007 banner to the Esprit 2008 charity auction.
Esprit has a long association with community charities in Port Angeles. In 1992, donations to local charities became a part of Esprit's principles. All contributions are collected from voluntary donations, our charity auctions, and from the public's cover charge for admission to our entertainment events. Donors are encouraged to donate auctionable goods of interest to Esprit attendees for the benefit of attendees and the Port Angeles community.
In 2004, Esprit officially made the Volunteer Hospice of Clallum County the charity of choice and Esprit is recognized as a hospice benefactor.
Many of us have been touched by a hospice in one way or another. Hospices and the people who work in them are a blessing to those in chronic pain or terminally ill. It has been an honor for Esprit to assist the Volunteer Hospice of Clallum County. Through the hospice, we reach many people in the Port Angeles community and our contributions are highly appreciated.
Esprit also contributes to other causes in the Port Angeles community. Extra clothing from the Boutique is usually delivered to local charities and women's shelters.
The Peninsula College outreach panel is also offered at other colleges in the Seattle area. During a recent visit to Western Washington University, the open question-and-answer session elicited this comment from one of the students: "We grew up in Port Angeles and Esprit was the best thing that happened to our community."