Showcasing Toledo Pride
By Christopher Brewer /
October 22, 2011

TOLEDO — It might take a village to raise a child, but can a child raise a village? Probably not, but if a group of children can, Project Showcase will be prime evidence of such, during a time the small south Lewis County town of Toledo needs it most.


    “It felt like Toledo had been dwindling there for a bit, and the Christmas Day fire really was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back; it really broke a lot of people’s spirits here in town,” said 2000 Toledo graduate Andrew Lahmann, who now lives in Bellingham. “I knew I had to come back and give back to a town that gave so much to me.”


    Lahmann has been coming back — frequently, in fact, along with fellow 2000 grad Matt McDaniel of Tacoma, with both utilizing their skills in video and still photography to create a visually-driven rallying cry for students of Toledo to not only take pride in their town of 700, but to band together into groups and brainstorm on how they can positively impact the small town along the Cowlitz River.


    Project Showcase is the brainchild of two Toledo High School graduates trying their best to rally current students at their alma mater through a video series in an effort to instill community pride and send the students off on service projects aimed at improving the quality of life in Toledo.


    A week ago on a Friday evening, Lahmann and a group of volunteers from Bellingham, where he now lives and runs a film production company called P-51 Pictures, brought an array of high-definition film equipment and roamed the sidelines shooting footage of the evening’s Toledo High School football home game against Ilwaco.


    The crew scurried about, taking shots of a capacity crowd that packed the stands and sidelines, the action on the field that saw Toledo romp in a 35-0 win, and even a special halftime in which a pyrotechnics crew shot off fireworks and the crowd cheered — all in an effort to create a video in less than two weeks that will serve as the final installation of a three-part series of teaser films designed to build anticipation for the project.


    It’s a dramatic attempt at improving a community that largely feels forgotten by the traffic that rushes by on nearby Interstate 5, and shocked by both last October’s loss of longtime stalwart Gary Ike and the massive Christmas Day fire that swept through the historic Cowlitz River Antiques and Toledo Logging Museum building. The efforts to revitalize the town began with a movement known as Vision:Toledo, also started in part by a former Toledo resident, and have built up to such projects as town cleanup, a Saturday market and more.


    On the Friday evening last week, it seemed the entire town was on hand to lend support to a project aimed at rejuvenating the town — making the football game all that much more exciting for a group of four Toledo students who showed up in jeans and stood in a light rain, shirtless, with their chests painted T-H-S-!


    “It was pretty bad around here for a bit with all the stuff going on, but people have really been working together to try to make this a really cool place once again,” 16-year-old Toledo High junior Joe Durham said. “It’s definitely getting better and you can really feel it among everyone here.”


    Durham‘s high school principal, Lisa Hull, agreed. The second-year principal of Toledo High School said she is excited about the kickoff of Project Showcase, but has already seen a noticeable improvement in the student body already.


    “I think with both Vision:Toledo and Project Showcase, the students are getting a real sense of ownership in their town,” Hull said during last week’s game. “We’re even seeing a major difference in our school: fewer cliques, people generally respecting each other more and academic performance getting better. It’s doing exactly what it was intended to do.”


    The Project Showcase movement has moved beyond those immediately affected by the events in Toledo; in addition to Lahmann and McDaniel doing the work free of charge, several of Lahmann’s colleagues and friends — namely, camera operators Jordan Donovan and Jake Lint, sound engineer James Bretz and production assistants Talisa Cook and Mackenzie Stiles — made the trip from Bellingham to lend a hand last week simply because they felt the urge to be a part of what they deemed an “admirable” project.


    “I had to jump in here when Andy told me what Project Showcase was all about. I thought about it and I asked ‘How could I say no to something like this?’” Donovan said in between shots of on-field action. “As someone who doesn’t even live here, to see this town energized like this is a huge inspiration. I hope really good things come out of this.”


    The end result of last week’s film will be shown during an upcoming assembly at Toledo High School. The project’s start date is yet to be determined, but the project status is continually updated at




Christopher Brewer: (360) 807-8235


Andrew Lahmann gets creative with a shot as he films from the cheerleader stands while football players line up for the national anthem during Friday’s Toledo-Ilwaco game. Lahmann and a crew of five shot footage for Project Showcase, an initiative designed to foster community spirit in Toledo after a series of notable incidents, including a major fire, devastated the town in 2010. (Photo by Christopher Brewer)

Toledo Indians parents, fans and students stand and cheer for a video being produced as part of Project Showcase during halftime of Toledo’s home game against Ilwaco Friday, Oct. 14, 2011, as fireworks fly behind the field. The video, filmed as part of a three-part series, aims to instill pride in Toledo High School students and the community at large, and also serves to kick off a competition between students in which they will team up for various service projects in Toledo. (Photo by Christopher Brewer)

Shirtless, and painted with Toledo colors, spirited students make their way into the stadium for the filmed halftime show, which was coordinated closely with the crowd and pyro-technician John Anderson. (Photo by Christopher Brewer)


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