IN THIS BEWITCHING TIME, CASTING A SPELL FOR FUN AND HAPPINESS – La Conner’s Jo Mitchelle, left, and her friend, Suzie, whom she created out of straw, cast-off clothes and a pumpkin – of course – are enjoying halloween all month long. You will find Jo’s special friends around town and her decorations, too. She has invited everyone to join her in the spirit of the good old days of 1970s La Conner. That is the spell she has conjured up.	 Good for her.                                          – Photo by Ken Stern
IN THIS BEWITCHING TIME, CASTING A SPELL FOR FUN AND HAPPINESS – La Conner’s Jo Mitchelle, left, and her friend, Suzie, whom she created out of straw, cast-off clothes and a pumpkin – of course – are enjoying halloween all month long. You will find Jo’s special friends around town and her decorations, too. She has invited everyone to join her in the spirit of the good old days of 1970s La Conner. That is the spell she has conjured up. Good for her. – Photo by Ken Stern

Jo Mitchelle is petite, an imp or a elf. But she is executing big ideas, conjuring up a 1970s La Conner Halloween by placing corn stalks, pumpkins and gourds at light posts up and down Morris and Streets. Those are minor decorations compared to the “fake people” with which she has populated the downtown: Bob and his dog by the boardwalk at Dirty Biter Park, Suzie on her bench near Step Outside and Lolita the fortune teller by the post office. Get up close and see that they are stuffed with straw and have masks pulled over their pumpkin heads.

It is Halloween, not Christmas, but Mitchelle has given a huge gift to the town and its tourists. Out of concern for the off-season tourist slump, she created a fall contest, an invitation and a challenge she first posted as a Weekly News classified in late September: 

“Let’s make La Conner fun for October. I challenge businesses and residents to put on their creative hats and make fall or Halloween displays – think fake people, pumpkins, ghosts, and goblins. The winner will receive an hour massage or $75 worth of plants.”

Mitchelle has already won. “I am having the most fun,” she told the Weekly News. Her Lolita the fortune teller has been at the post office for some two weeks. The sign on her purse introduces her and says, “look inside my purse and pick your fortune.” Lots of folks have. Mitchell has written hundreds of fortunes, refilling the purse again and again.

Jan Marie McGehee, owner of The Country Lady south of the post office, has enjoyed watching people encountering and interacting with Lolita. McGehee told her, “’You don’t know how many people you are making happy’” Mitchelle recounted. “We all need more happiness in our lives. You can create that” 

Fun and happiness are Mitchelle’s bywords for the project and the month. “It’s just my idea to make La Conner a little more fun for people,” she said. “I want people to be happy. I know for the merchants in the winter time it is just dead.” So Mitchelle, having dwelled on this for months, summoned up the La Conner she experineced when she arrived in the 1970s, when, “La Conner used to be so much fun.”

Mitchelle is proving true once again that those that give gain the most joy. “We live in such a mean world. We don’t know how to give anymore,” she observed. “I am doing this because I want to see our town survive. That’s why I am doing what I am doing. I don’t have dancing right now. This is how I entertain myself.”

Mitchelle’s fake people have real lives. Suzie, on Morris’s southeast corner, has a sign taped to her bench: “My name is Suzie and you can kiss me if you want.” The real Suzie is the real Mitchelle’s dog.

Bob, near the boardwalk, has a dog, or did. The dog was dognapped by another dog. Wayne, Mitchelle’s friend, snapped photos of Bob’s dog being carried away. The stuffed animal was later returned.

Bob is one legged because Mitchelle had one cowboy boot. Her imagination runs that way. She is working on a bride and groom with pumpkin heads, of course. She is going to hide the groom from the bride, perhaps because the bride is huge – that is how big the dress is, she said, stretching her arms wide.

Soon a couple of kids will appear on Morris Street. More pumpkins are needed and Mitchelle is procuring them.

She said Yvonne Corbett at Ladders and Marlo Frank at Nasty Jack’s have joined in or plan to and that Lisa Sentle has decorated inside at her shop, Kirmse’s Antiques.

Decorating continues through the month, with judging Oct. 26. The winner gets a massage, from Mitchelle, who is Jo, of Jo’s Healing Hands.

Since it is only Oct. 13 Mitchelle is still taking straw, hay, pumpkins, wigs, old clothes and masks, of course. All can be dropped at her clinic, behind the post office.

“I like my town and I want to participate,” were her parting words. “If you are going to support it, you have to support it. What do people think? If I don’t support it, it is not going to happen.”

Mitchelle is happening, caught up in her spell. Her fortune is made.

Questions? Call Jo, 360-708-2022. Please do not disturb massages for drop-offs.