Casino, restaurants and shops reopen, but with safety measures in place
RIDGEFIELD — There are new safety measures in place, but ilani still has the same love for the community.
That was the message from tribal leaders and ilani administrators at a reopening ceremony Thursday morning in Ridgefield.
“Dear loved ones … I’m talking to you,” opened Tana Engdahl, spiritual leader for the Cowlitz Tribe, speaking to the gathering of guests outside of ilani. “We ask a blessing for each one of you because we are so happy to have you here to share and come to our house.
“Our house is your house.”
William B. Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, and Kara Fox-LaRose, the president and general manager of ilani, also spoke at the ceremony.
Iyall noted that ilani has been so successful in its three years of operation that the tribe was able to donate $750,000 to Covid relief projects.
Fox-LaRose shared the biggest lesson she has learned through the pandemic.
“To remind ourselves all to embrace the moment and offer one another grace when possible,” she said.
In its reopening, the gaming, restaurants, and shops will require social distancing and other safety measures. All employees and guests of ilani will be required to wear masks. All who enter also will have their temperatures scanned. Any person with a temperature of 100.2 degrees or higher will not be allowed in the facility.
Large events such as concerts remain postponed.
Inside the gaming area, every other seat at the slot machines has been removed, with those machines turned off to ensure proper distancing. See-through barriers have been set up at the table games to provide extra protection for players and dealers.
“The Cowlitz Tribe has remained committed to protecting the public’s health, and that remains our utmost priority,” Fox-LaRose said.
Fox-LaRose understands that such measures might cause discomfort for some guests.
“We ask for your patience and grace with our team, and we’re asking you to adhere to these practices. It’s in everybody’s best interest,” she said.
The ceremony came to a close when Fox-LaRose, Engdahl, and Iyall cut the ribbon to reopen ilani. Confetti rained down on the guests waiting to enter.
“I love it,” said Dee Memering of Vancouver. “I’ve been here many times. Nice to be back. We want to reopen. We want our lives back.”
Her friend Judith Davis of Vancouver said she loves coming to ilani for the restaurants and the shops.
“This is an asset for the community,” she said, noting she loves eating at Line and Lure and shopping at Marshall Rousso.
“I love all the people here. Everyone is so friendly,” Davis said.
The modifications at ilani will look different and bring a feeling of change. No one knows how long these modifications will be in effect.
Engdahl, Iyall, and Fox-LaRose reminded their guests that no matter the challenges, they are committed to keeping ilani a grand experience.
“As you walk into those doors of ilani, I ask that you walk in with hope and gratitude as we move forward with the continued progress of finding our way back to a fulfilling life,” Fox-LaRose said.
“We all know ‘ilani’ means, in the Cowlitz language, to sing. This is a call to action to celebrate. In our world, ilani takes on a new meaning today. Celebrate with us. Celebrate the progress you all made as individuals with all the sacrifices you’ve made in the last 70 days since we closed.”