TOPPENISH, WASH. - Toppenish, in the Yakima Valley, is one of those little towns that got bypassed by a big highway, but a detour will take you to a place where 'The West Still Lives' -- as their slogan says.
Jim Duke is one of the folks keeping it alive. With the help of his horses, Frank and Jessie, he leads wagon tours of the town's many murals.
"That's what we do. We just have a lot of fun, and we can put a little change in our pockets too and buy hay for the horses," Duke explained.
Toppenish started commissioning murals back in 1989 to draw tourists. Today there are more than 70. Each one has a story, and Duke tells them all.
Every year, in June, Toppenish hosts a 'Mural in a Day' celebration -- and one more piece of history gets captured, and preserved.
But not everything on these murals is long gone. One crop depicted in many murals has been a part of this valley for generations.
Museum board member Tom Sauve is a fourth generation hop grower.
"We're in the center of the Yakima Valley, and the Yakima Valley is a major hop-growing region in the world. Forty percent of the world's needs come out of this valley," Suave said.
The boom in the craft brewing industry has made this a pilgrimage place for anyone who wants to learn more about the plant that flavors their beer.
Finally -- if you're looking for local cuisine in Toppenish, we can't vouch for the Hop Asparagus we saw in the museum gift store. But we can offer this: hit the Mercado Guadalajara and grab a bunch of Paletas -- Mexican popsicles. This grocer carries ones from 'La Nortena' that are made in nearby Sunnyside and come in flavors ranging from eggnog to mango to agave.
The world has a way of rushing by towns like Toppenish.
But don't be in such a hurry.
Because this is one of those places that's worth a pause.
"It's just a clean little town now, that has an old way of living," concluded Duke as he guided his wagon through traffic, down Main Street.
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