Thursday, Feb. 14

As romantic American notions go, not much tops the cowboy. It’s appropriate, then, that the Spirit of the West Cowboy Gathering in Ellensburg begins on Valentine’s Day this year. The annual celebration of Western music, art and poetry is always stacked with top-flight performers, and this year is no different. Thousands attend each year for a chance to see favorites such as Wylie Gustafson, Belinda Gail and the Quebe Sisters Band. There’s also a chuck wagon cookoff, ranch roping contest and art show.

It starts with a free night of cowboy gospel music from 6 to 9 p.m. on Valentine’s Day at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds. Events continue throughout the weekend. Ticket prices for individual performances vary. For information, visit www.ellensburgcowboy or call 888-925-2204.

There are plenty of more conventional date options for Valentine’s Day if you’re not into the cowboy scene up in Ellensburg. Creekside West Bar and Grill has a harpist from 5 to 7:30 p.m., local wineries such as Naches Heights Vineyard are preparing special dinners, and down in the Lower Valley there’s the Parade of Hearts Semi-Formal Senior Dance at the Grandview Community Center featuring Gary Malner on accordion.

That’s not to mention the dinner specials available at fine local restaurants such as Gasperetti’s, 5 North and Café Melange. For details on Valentine’s Day events throughout the area, visit

Friday, Feb. 15

So, you actually thought that cheap teddy bear with the heart on its belly was going to knock her off her feet, huh? Didn’t work, did it? Well, it’s not too late to make up for an underwhelming Valentine’s Day. Just pick out a few wineries throughout the Yakima Valley and visit them during this weekend’s Red Wine and Chocolate event. Participating wineries pair two of the most decadent tastes known to humankind for a truly romantic experience.

Tasting fees and hours vary. For information, visit or or call 509-965-5201 or 509-882-4525.

Paul Rudnick’s comedy “I Hate Hamlet” gives us a peek inside the mind of a man in existential crisis. That man, actor Andrew Rally (played in the Warehouse Theatre’s production by Herald-Republic reporter Mike Faulk), starts swordfighting ghosts and questioning his relationships. So it has that going for it. And Faulk, who won last year’s Best Actor Winnie Award, has impeccable comic timing, as do his fellow cast members, Warehouse veterans Vance Jennings, Grace Schefter and Megan Antles.

The play opens at 7:30 p.m. at the Warehouse Theatre, 5000 W. Lincoln Ave., with subsequent shows Saturday, Thursday, Feb. 22, 23 and 28 and March 1 and 2. Tickets cost $16, $13 for students and seniors. For information, visit or call 509-966-0951.

Saturday, Feb. 16

Seattle vocalist Greta Matassa is known among Northwest jazz aficionados for her versatility. She can, they say, do justice both to brash wailers and sultry whisperers. The works of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, which will be the focus of her upcoming gig at The Seasons Performance Hall, afford plenty of opportunities for both, plus a full range of styles and tones in between.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. The Seasons is at 101 N. Naches Ave. Tickets cost $15 in advance or $20 on the day. For information, visit or or call 509-453-1888.

Tuesday, Feb. 19

Central Washington University’s Lion Rock Visiting Writers Series is one of those things more people should know about. It’s a lineup of real, honest-to-god big-time writers, and this edition featuring Canadian poet Tom Wayman is no exception. Wayman has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry as well as short stories and essays, and he’ll be at Central’s Student Union and Recreation Center Theatre for a free reading at 7:30 p.m. For information, visit or call 509-963-1111.

Friday, Feb. 22

Fresh off another Grammy Award (for best solo country performance), Carrie Underwood returns to Yakima with her “Blown Away Tour.” Underwood, the 2005 “American Idol” winner who has since become a top country music name, played the Yakima Valley SunDome in 2008 and 2010 and, by all accounts, blew the roof off the joint. She’ll be back in the same venue this time around, for a show starting at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $42.50 and $62.50 through TicketsWest. For information visit or call 509-248-7160.

— Pat Muir