This weekend, I'm off for an annual tradition: the Port Townsend Film Festival. I've attended the festival, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, every year but the first -- and when I heard about that one back in 1999, with Tony Curtis presiding over a screening of "Some Like It Hot," I thought, so, why wasn't I there? So every year, in late September, I wait in the ferry line and eagerly anticipate the three-day-fest, where outdoor movies are shown to audiences sitting on hay bales on Taylor St. and old-school movie stars share stories. A few favorite memories:
-- Debra Winger, returning to Port Townsend for the first time since filming "An Officer and a Gentleman," and observing that there's a lot more traffic now.
-- Patricia Neal, warmly sharing her memories of Paul Newman after a screening of their film "Hud."
-- The way that last year's festival became an impromptu tribute to Newman, with a screening of "The Hustler" and a warmhearted panel of friends and colleagues shared stories of him.
-- Eva Marie Saint, saying how much she'd enjoyed watching "All Fall Down" at the festival "with all my new friends."
-- The one year when it rained (2007), with a wildly blustery storm that closed down the outdoor beer garden -- but only briefly. It reopened and was a cheering sight in the gray afternoon, with candles flickering in the wind.
-- Climbing the stairs above the Taylor Street fountain and looking down to see the incomparable beauty of the young Audrey Hepburn in "Roman Holiday" on the big outdoor screen, under a perfectly starry sky.
This year, the special guest is Cloris Leachman, who'll be interviewed onstage by Robert Osborne after a screening of "The Last Picture Show," and the skies look likely to be clear. The tenth anniversary will be a little bittersweet, as longtime festival director Peter Simpson won't be there to see it. But I hear there will be a tribute to him, and I know all of us who've so enjoyed the festival for these years will take a moment to remember him. His unpretentious warmth, friendliness and passionate love of cinema will live on, I'm sure, in this festival.