Skagit River Salmon Festival

Salmon are life

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

To grow up in this corner of the Pacific Northwest is to be steeped in the science and lore of salmon. Even a kid like me, from the suburbs of Everett—which are neither wild nor scenic—released hatchery fingerlings into a salmon stream during school field trips. I’m still way more familiar with the lifecycle of salmon than I ever was with the innards of a frog.

The significance of salmon was brought into even sharper relief recently after a Southern Resident orca, known as Tahlequah by many and J35 by scientists, carried her dead calf—the baby orca died shortly after birth—with her for 17 days in a show of grief unprecedented in the natural world.

By the time she’d let her calf go, her heartbreaking vigil had captivated the world, a different kind of natural disaster from which we could not—and should not—look away.

While the critically endangered Southern Residents suffer from myriad challenges to their longevity, by and large, they are starving to death. Their preferred food: Chinook salmon, a species of fish whose own stocks are rapidly dwindling. As the Chinook go, so go the Southern Resident orcas.

In this part of the world, salmon are more than just a way of life. Salmon are life.

But there is hope for salmon recovery, and much of it is focused on the Skagit River. The Skagit is one of those fisheries of great lore, and while it is not what it once was in terms of fish habitat, it is home to all five species of Pacific salmon—including Chinook—and the river is considered to be the best place to engineer the comeback of Puget Sound salmon.

In 2012, a group of people who have devoted their lives to restoring Skagit River’s salmon habitat had the idea to throw a party along the banks of the river to celebrate the fish, educate people about conservation efforts and serve as a reminder that the fight to save these fish is not just happening in the Puget Sound or at river dams miles away, but also in our own backyards. What they came up with was the Skagit River Salmon Festival. And when 3,000 people showed up to the first one six years ago, they knew their festival would float.

This year’s event takes place Sat., Sept. 8 at Mount Vernon’s Edgewater Park, which as its name suggests, is nestled right up against the banks of the Skagit River. As with most such undertakings around here, the Skagit River Salmon Festival is powered by a mixture of public funds, private sponsorships and a whole lot of volunteers. As such, the price of admission is dirt cheap—just $5 for adults, and kids get in for free—but the payoff is huge. And if that leaves you with some money in your entertainment budget that you can donate to one of the many participating organizations engaged in salmon habitat conservation and restoration, so much the better.

The music at this family-friendly festival starts early, at 11:15am, with Caspar Babypants, a name well-known to the many thousands of children he entertains, but to most adults, he’s more recognizable as Chris Ballew, front man of the President of the United States of America. Following in his footsteps will be Seattle’s Industrial Revelation, Stranger Genius Award winners whose members have played with Macklemore, Allen Stone, Das Racist, and more. After that comes the Sweet Goodbyes, a duo comprised of longtime local folk mainstays Amber Darland and Lisa Harmon. Bringing their Brazilian roots to the stage, along with their own blend of funk, jazz and soul, is Seattle’s EntreMundos Quartet. Their name translates to “between worlds,” which is the space they try to occupy musically speaking as well. Closing out this year’s Skagit River Salmon Festival is Polecat, a band that certainly needs no introduction or description around these parts. I can think of no better way to spend the waning hours of daylight during one of the last Saturdays of summer than dancing to Polecat’s signature stomp music by the banks of the Skagit River.

Along with the music, the Sardis Raptor Center will be on hand with their “Hunters of the Sky” show, which gives a glimpse of some of the high-flying creatures that occupy our ecosystem and highlights the important role they play in the lifecycle of the Skagit watershed. Farmstrong Brewing Co. and Compass Wines will provide the beer and wine garden, and food will come courtesy of several local vendors. Attendees can also take a wander through Conservation Alley, where the aforementioned environmental organizations will teach you all you’d like to know and more about the wonders of the mighty Skagit. And you can’t leave until you drop by Fin, a replica of a migrating chum salmon that measures 25 feet that you can climb inside of and view a mural depicting the watershed.

As we’ve seen recently, the road to salmon recovery is long and fraught with hazards—much like the journey of spawning salmon themselves. But through dedication, science and plain old hard work, we’ll get there. We have to. Salmon are life.

More Music...
All Sound, No Fury
A week at the Wild Buffalo

I am not ashamed to say I spent the entirety of last weekend inside my house, mostly in my pajamas. With the exception of one brief sojourn to find sustenance, I hunkered down in my hermitage, perfectly content.

But it’s time to break out and should I need an excuse to do so beyond…

more »
Thelma Houston
Getting the last word

On paper, Thelma Houston is a one-hit wonder from the disco era.

But with Houston, as with so many things, what’s on paper isn’t even the first word, much less the last one.

To begin with, Houston (no relation to Whitney because it probably needs to be said) didn’t just have a hit…

more »
Joe Pug
Making it work

Joe Pug writes every single day.

As a writer, I find that to be intimidating. It seems a little excessive. What’s he trying to prove with his daily writing habit? Does he think he’s better than me?

Even though I write on a deadline, which should imply that I possess a measure of…

more »
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Vendovi Tours

10:00am|Vendovi Island

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

La Cage Aux Folles

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

The Wind in the Willows

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Brunch on the Bay

10:00am|Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Edison Farmers Market

10:00am|Edison Granary

Banned Books Week


Langar in Lynden

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Brunch and Learn

11:00am|Ciao Thyme

Your Vote Counts! Block Party

12:00pm|Depot Market Square

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

South Side Stories

2:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Trivia Time

3:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Waiting for the Whales

4:00pm|Village Books

Not-Creepy Gathering for People Who Are Single

6:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Moon Walk


Trove Web
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Vendovi Tours

10:00am|Vendovi Island

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Banned Books Week


Baker Lake Cleanup Signup Deadline

8:00am|Baker Lake

Wheelchair Gangball

3:30pm|Bloedel Donovan

Monday Night Pizza

5:30pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Books on Tap

6:30pm|El Agave 2

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books


9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

Village Books Trove Web
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Banned Books Week


Rainbow Reads Book Club

3:00pm| Ferndale Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Seabird Struggles

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Beginning Square Dance Lessons

7:00pm|Ten Mile Grange

Warlbers and Woodpeckers

7:00pm|Village Books

Comedy Open Mic


see our complete calendar »

Village Books Trove Web Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1