Washington quarter makes debut
Two years, 15 designs and 134,000 online votes culminated in Wednesday's unveiling of the new state quarter commemorating Washington's natural...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Two years, 15 designs and 134,000 online votes culminated in Wednesday's unveiling of the new state quarter commemorating Washington's natural beauty and Native American roots in a child-friendly ceremony at Seattle Center.
Hundreds of schoolchildren packed Fisher Pavilion, their voices creating a constant din as dignitaries and tribal elders urged the youngsters to save their money and save the environment.
Since 1999, the U.S. Mint has issued commemorative state quarters in the order that states joined the U.S. — beginning with Delaware and ending sometime next year with Hawaii. Five new quarters are issued every year, with Washington — nicknamed the Evergreen State — the 42nd state to have its own coin.
The process to choose a coin design began in April 2005. The Washington Quarter Advisory Commission received 15 design submissions, a number eventually whittled down to three. A year ago, the state's residents voted for their favorite design in an online poll. The result: a state coin that depicts a king salmon breaching the water, with Mount Rainier and a row of evergreen trees in the background.
"The salmon sustained the native people of the Northwest, and now it's a staple of our diet," said Gov. Christine Gregoire. Mount Rainier, she said, was called Tahoma by local natives, a word that means "the mother of all waters."
On a sunny day, Mount Rainier "can be seen from the San Juan Islands to the high plains of Eastern Washington," she said, adding that evergreen trees represent the state's lush beauty. She encouraged the children to save their money "for a rainy day," something she said she also hoped the state Legislature would do.
U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, who spoke of endangered salmon and the threats of global warming as he invoked the memory of Chief Seattle, said that 50 years from now the state quarter "will be priceless if we save the things commemorated on this coin."
Earlier this month, the first coins arrived at the Federal Reserve Bank in Seattle after being minted in Denver and Philadelphia. Between 500 million and 600 million Washington quarters will be released across the country "and people should start seeing them in their change in the next few weeks," said Becky Bailey, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mint.
New coins were passed out to all children in the audience.
"I like that it has a salmon to represent that the salmon ... may become extinct and we need to save them," said 9-year-old Shannon Dolezal, who came to the ceremony with three dozen other kids from the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. "And I like the picture of Mount Rainier because I think it's really pretty."
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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