Events were minimal during COVID-19, but the Suquamish Tribe’s Kiana Lodge near Poulsbo has bounced back as the venue has booked a record number of weddings due to the backlog of ceremonies that were postponed.
The pristine venue has 115 weddings booked this year as couples are eager to have big ceremonies again after the long layoff caused by the pandemic.
“We’ve definitely bounced back from COVID. It was a struggle the last couple years,” Kiana Lodge manager Brittany Bakken said. “We were pretty shut down for a big bulk of [the pandemic]. We had to do layoffs, unfortunately.”
There are so many weddings planned, the lodge is even going to be busy on weekdays.
“Right now, people don’t care what day of the week it is. They’re getting married on Mondays or Tuesdays,” Bakken said, adding they are getting staffed for a busy summer.
Weddings are primarily what the lodge is known for but it also hosts tribal, corporate and social events. The lodge features a kitchen with a staff to cook for whatever event is taking place.
“It’s primarily an event venue that is very unique to our area,” Bakken said. “We compete a lot with the Seattle market, and big venues that have more of a larger corporate structure. I think it’s cool that we’re kind of this hidden gem in a beautiful area. The property really sells itself.”
Situated on 1,000 feet of no-bank waterfront and 6 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, the lodge is surrounded by fragrant cedars, majestic firs and a variety of plant life, its website states. The site was voted the No. 1 wedding venue in the state a few years ago. Its motto is “A moment in time and a memory for eternity.”
Bakken said the facility can hold up to 1,000 people for a reception, which is hard to find. For dinner events, capacity is about 500. When fully staffed, there are between 30 and 35 employees.
“A lot of our staff is seasonal because of our banquet schedule,” Bakken said. “May through October is kind of our peak season for wedding events.”
While it’s called a lodge, it’s really only a day-use facility as no rooms are available for overnight guests. With the Clearwater Casino Resort close by, there really isn’t a need for it, Bakken said.
“The lodge word is a little misleading,” she said. “We got a lot of calls asking for overnight accommodations. It’s the reason why the hotel has done so well. I think it compliments both properties.”
With weather being so unpredictable throughout the year, the lodge also holds weddings in its garden atrium when it’s not possible outdoors on the waterfront.
“It can be just as beautiful,” said former lodge manager Jay Mills, who is now ambassador for Port Madison Enterprises. “I really think that’s another big seller here. With Kiana, you really don’t have to worry about weather conditions.”
Keeping the facility in tip-top shape is a priority. Bakken said it has become a popular location for high school students to take their senior photos.
“We’re constantly doing site tailors,” she said. “People’s jaws drop when they’re walking around. It’s beautiful year-round.”
Aside from what the lodge offers, another big attraction is that parts of the TV series Twin Peaks were filmed there — both the 1990 and the 2017 versions.
In the original version, the show begins with a horrifying scene of character Pete Martel who heads out to go fishing before finding the body of character Laura Palmer, the town’s homecoming queen, washed ashore next to a giant log. That log still lies on the beach at the lodge, although Mills said it almost floated away recently. Additionally, the main lodge served as much of the backdrop to the Great Northern Hotel and Blue Pine Lodge.
“Year-round people call,” Bakken said, adding folks should call ahead of time so they don’t interfere with private events. “Within the center room of our main lodge is where the hotel front-desk reception was. It’s got a big following.”
The newer series also featured the lodge. Mills said show creator and longtime film director David Lynch stopped by the lodge to conduct filming.
“We were trying to figure out what part Kiana would play in the new series,” he said. “It wasn’t until the last episode when they showed Kiana for maybe ten seconds. It was that deck where they showed a fisherman fishing off of it and then it transitions to the old series. We were in there.”
Mills said the lodge was built in the 1930s and used as a World War II base for the 14th Coast Artillery. A German architect originally created the blueprints, and a local Suquamish tribal member helped build it. Former Suquamish chairman Lawrence Webster also used his pickup to gather stones for the fireplace.
“There was a tribal member that helped log, and those logs were harvested from the property,” he said. “Putting that history together that some of our members had something to do with the construction of that lodge is pretty special.”
Before the tribe acquired the property in 2004, the lodge was similarly a private event space owned by Bob Riebe and Richard White before him. Loud noises from Riebe’s events caused friction with neighbors over the years.
“There would be bands or DJs playing, and the neighbors would always complain to the county,” Mills said. I remember Bob saying, ‘If they keep it up I’m going to sell it to the tribe.’”
When the tribe bought the property, Mills made it a priority to keep noise levels down from events and to be considerate of the neighbors. He would even stand far away from events and use a noise-level reader to make sure it wasn’t getting too loud.
“That’s the extent that we went to,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors. Right after we acquired it, we hosted a meeting with the neighbors because there were concerns that we were going to put in another casino or a ferry from Seattle. We sat down and assured them that wasn’t the intention and that we would continue the banquet and catering business.”
Under the tribe’s direction, many improvements were made, such as remodeled bathrooms and kitchen, new water pumps, new skylights and roof for the garden atrium, replacing logs on the base of the building, etc.
“It was a tremendous amount of work,” Mills said of the property at 14976 Sandy Hook Road NE. “We probably have put more than $5 million in improvements over the years to the property. We’re just trying to preserve what we have down there.”