High Mountain String Band films its portion of the virtual Old Settlers event, to be released July 22. (Courtesy photo/Riley Sweeney)

July 22 video release will include concert, radio drama, documentary

FERNDALE — Ferndale’s 125th annual Old Settlers Picnic won’t look anything like its 124 previous years, but the city of Ferndale will still celebrate the occasion anyway.

The Whatcom Old Settlers Variety Show will go live at starting Wednesday, July 22. It will feature a performance by High Mountain String Band, a video tour of the Pioneer Village cabins, interviews about Old Settlers picnics of previous years, an inside look at the historic 2019 Paddle to Lummi event and an original radio drama set in 1932 Ferndale.

“We wanted the true spectrum of all of Ferndale’s history,” said Riley Sweeney, city communications and special projects officer. “The Old Settlers event has been going on for 125 years and we wanted to pay tribute to that and beyond. Before the white settlers arrived, the tribal history, the settler period, and also the 1930s and ‘40s, and the eras when the refineries came in.”

Sweeney said the video package will drop like a Netflix series July 22. It will all be available at once, and much of the production is already done.

“I’ve filmed the concert with High Mountain String Band,” Sweeney said. “We’ve written and recorded most of the radio drama, the original radio drama set in 1932 Ferndale. We’ve got that mostly assembled. We have the documentary submitted by Children of the Setting Sun productions.”

All that’s left is filming some memories of past Old Settlers Picnics and a video tour of the Pioneer Village cabins.

Sweeney said he’s most excited about the radio drama, which is titled “James Wells and the Case of the Missing Belgian.” It tells the story of Wells, who was Ferndale’s only police officer back in 1932. He investigates the case of a missing horse (the titular Belgian) and uncovers an even more elaborate mystery. The cast includes a variety of local actors, many of whom appeared in the city’s Mystery in the Park event last summer.

“It’s chock full of Ferndale history,” Sweeney said. “It’s set in the 1930s, a period of time in which there’s not a lot of information about what was going on in Ferndale. You have the settler period and things related to the refineries, but there’s nothing in that middle slot. What does Depression-era Ferndale look like? Well, you’ll get a good look at it. Well, a listen.”

Sweeney sees the event as a good opportunity for people to engage with the city and its history, especially those who have moved away and can now attend virtually with everyone else.