BY SHAWN BERIT
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
December 7, 2016
It took three years to find this place. Three years of soul searching, conversations, and research all led . . . to a film.
We had traveled 1,500 miles from the prairie city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to this magical island that Colonel Isaac Ebey called “almost a paradise of nature.” His quest to find a new home to settle in with his family paralleled our own in many ways. Just as Isaac brought his family to Ebey’s Prairie in the early 1850s, I came here with my wife and youngest son and eventually brought my mother.
We were in search of a near-mythical place when we found Whidbey Island. While Ebey sought fertile farm ground, I sought a fertile arts community. We also wanted a place with pine forests, mountain vistas, quaint fishing villages, and most of all, the ocean. We were also in need of a milder climate than the uncommonly extreme weather of South Dakota. We found all that and more on Whidbey Island.
It was while learning about our new declared home that we discovered the Ebey’s Landing Film Slam contest. Fifty hours to write a script, video, edit, and turn in a video about Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve with the theme of “Find Your Park.”
My son, Cody, and I already had a YouTube channel where we called ourselves “The Dakota Guys.” It was a joint creative project that we started in 2014 as a way to have some fun and spend more time together.
The YouTube channel was Cody’s idea to start with. He’s a creative, like me, and has interests in music, acting, and storytelling. He even does voice-over acting for an independent video game that’s being produced. YouTube seemed like a logical outlet for us to create and spend time together.
Our videos are mostly about travel and new experiences. We end all of our videos with the motto, “Life’s the adventure that you make it, so go find one.” We decided the film slam was the perfect way to learn more about the island, and that it would be a great topic for our first Dakota Guys video here.
We had arrived on the island mere weeks before, living out of our motorhome, as we worked with Realtor Christina Parker to find our new home. Due to a happy twist of fate, we found ourselves staying in Fort Ebey State Park, an excellent location to work from.
Our task was straightforward. Make a video that highlighted something about the Reserve that had personal meaning to us. Oh, and for added fun and challenge, our team had to include a shot of a beach, a blockhouse, and a duck. No problem.
In researching and shooting video around the reserve, I found a bit of a kindred spirit in Isaac Ebey. He loved his family and made sure they were taken care of. He also traveled far to create a new life here. He loved Whidbey Island and, like me, had found his own kind of paradise.
We’ve just begun to uncover the treasures of this island, some of which we were fortunate to highlight in our video. The natural beauty is abundant here. On Whidbey, you can enjoy deep, lush forests that open into glades, wetlands, and farmland. You can enjoy beautiful sandy beaches and views of two magnificent mountain ranges. Where else can you do that?
Yet with all this beauty, we have learned that Whidbey Island’s best-kept secret, its greatest treasure of all, is its people. I’ve traveled many places and lived most of my life in a place with very good people, yet we were astounded at how welcome we were made to feel upon arriving here. We’ve already made a number of friends and wonderful acquaintances.
Our video, titled simply “Dakota Guys: Ebey’s Landing,” wrapped up the history and beauty that we found in the Reserve. It was a great privilege to join with the other film makers in this fun challenge. In the end, we were incredibly honored to be selected as the Judge’s Choice Winner of the 2016 Film Slam! All the submitted films were fun and creative, showing what a talented group of people live on this island.
Like the mix of joy and sorrow that Isaac Ebey and his family experienced here, our joy was tempered by loss. My now ex-wife and I parted ways shortly after the film festival. Yet we remain friends and are both moving on. The magic of Whidbey is a healing magic, a restorative magic. Just as life goes on, so will the videos of Cody and me, the Dakota Guys!
Shawn Berit lives near Maxwelton Beach on the south end of Whidbey. He is co-owner of Fairy Magic Children’s Entertainment with business partner Hahna Luna. Shawn is a father of three and an all-around creative. He is a painter and drawer (acrylics and pastels) of fantastical scenery, story illustrations, and science fiction concept art, a nature photographer, a vocalist wanting to start a band, a science fiction writer working on his first novel, and a television and voice-over actor. Of course, he is also one-half of the Dakota Guys on YouTube and in love with all things Whidbey Island!
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