A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WALKING GUIDE TO FREMONT
by Kirby Lindsay
As annual registration for the Walking Guide to Fremont begins, the original creator of this wildly successful brochure, Jon Hegeman, gave his account of its history, and changes it underwent to become a promotional staple of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce.
Co-Promoting The Community
In 1990, Hegeman and his wife, Candace Reiter, first established the Fremont Sunday Market. Immediately, he set about promoting the area and, by extension, his business. He recalled the first versions of the Walking Guide as rough, photocopied handouts that served “as a talking piece.”
According to Hegeman, he and Charlotte Buchanan, owner of GlamOrama, made a presentation to the Fremont Chamber Board of Directors, and received a disappointing reception that he described as “a ‘we’ll think about it’ reaction.” Undeterred, the team started the Fremont Business Association (FBA) under which they launched the Outdoor Cinema, the Rocket and Hegeman published the Guide.
The 1994 edition is the earliest version saved in the Fremont Chamber archives. The yellow and white cover has the logo Jon created for ‘The Artists Republic of Fremont’ and an advises, “See It - Walk It - Bike It - Shop It.” Inside are listings for 93 businesses (38 of which still operate in Fremont today) along with a map, a description of ‘Seattle’s Left Bank,’ and a brief mention of First Saturday Gallery Walks (which eventually evolved into the First Friday Art Walk).
“Almost first and foremost,” Hegeman explained, a successful Guide needs, “a mythology; what made our neighborhood unique.” Hegeman exposed some of our myths, and created others – such as the popular composite photo of the Rocket that, in grayscale, illustrated the back cover of the Guide and provided “some form of iconology.”
In the 1996 edition, Hegeman changed the front cover motto to “Art Never Stops,” a statement he credited to Peter Bevis, as his answer to why he brought the controversial sculpture of Lenin to Fremont. Also, on the back cover of this edition, the FBA give their mailing address as that of the Fremont Chamber.
With momentum built by the FBA, Hegeman recalled, Fremont Chamber members asked he and Buchanan to join their Board. Now published as a Chamber piece, the Guide’s cover, for the 1997-98 edition, went from yellow to Rocket. The photo, and the whole Guide, went four-color due to what Hegeman described as “press economies.” Inside, he interspersed business listings with photo portraits he took of neighborhood people. In 1999, details from the newly installed art fence at History House decorated the listings page.
‘This is me, letting go.’
By 2002, continual updates to the Guide had turned into a job and, as Hegeman described it, “I didn’t need this extra layer of stuff.” Chamber leadership suggested their newly installed Executive Director William Elder take over production. “If I recall, business was in a funk,” Hegeman said, “and my enthusiasm was flagging because life was busy.”
“The template was created,” Hegeman mused, “perhaps I just needed to let go.” As he recently examined the 2009 edition, Hegeman described it as “a work in progress,” a piece that continually evolves. “Everyone that takes the reins is going to have a different take,” he acknowledged, but what the Guide provides, “is more important than ever.”
Registration for the 2010 edition, due out in December, will remain open until October 31, 2009. For more information on the Guide, currently produced, under contract, for the Fremont Chamber by Cougar Mountain Productions, go to www.historyhouse.org/2010WGAp.htm
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.