Port Alberni’s 47th annual Salmon Festival happens this Labour Day weekend—Friday, Aug. 31 to Monday, Sept. 3—and for the second year it will be at Tyee Landing, next to Fisherman’s Harbour on the Alberni Inlet.
The festival moved to Tyee Landing last year due to anticipated construction at Clutesi Haven Marina on the Somass River, where it had been located for several decades. Because the plan for Clutesi Haven is for eventual development, the Salmon Festival Society decided to stay in the new location.
“With the exception of power, it’s a wonderful site,” Salmon Fest president Dan Washington said. He acknowledged that Tyee Landing is also a work in progress, as volunteers strive to find the right balance for a rejuvenated festival.
Bordered by Fisherman’s Harbour on one side, the Alberni Inlet at the end and the former Somass Mill site on the other side, Tyee Landing “is more of a secure location,” he said.
“Power is still an issue.” They have to run generators and light towers for nighttime events. The desire is to one day have a permanent power source so events don’t have to bring in their own generators, he explained. Vice-president Rob Cole said a permanent restroom facility would also be ideal.
The industrial road in front of Tyee Landing will be closed to vehicle traffic, with parking available in the lots across from the Landing and closer to the Port Alberni Train Station. This year Salmon Fest will have a six-person golf cart available for people with mobility challenges, to get them from the entrance to the other end of the site.
The festival is hoping to become an “open concept” event by 2019 so they can do away with the beer garden, and people will be able to take their alcoholic beverages throughout the site. In order to do that organizers need to take attendance, so there will be turnstiles at the entrance this year to keep track of numbers.
“Our main objective is to be able to have an open concept. We will have a gate at the beginning that you come through. Our biggest obstacle is we’ve never taken attendance—we couldn’t say to the liquor inspector how many people would be on the site,” Washington said.
There will be more tent on site this year to protect festivalgoers from sun and wind. “We learned that, and keeping cool and hydrated are going to be an issue there,” he acknowledged.
There will be more vendors and more activities for kids throughout the festival. “We know we need more for kids to do,” Cole said.
“We still hope to have a bouncy tent. We’ve got a group together of School District 70, West Coast Aquatic and the chamber of commerce to use the parks and recreation department’s games” with stations much like the summer Our Town events.
The idea is to have these activities on Saturday, Sunday and Monday for kids instead of just one afternoon as in past years.
The bullhead derby is not happening at Salmon Fest this year—the Alberni Valley Lions Club teamed up with the Maritime Heritage Society and held the bullhead derby the weekend before Salmon Fest at the lighthouse pier. Cole said Salmon Fest is in discussions with the city and Port Alberni Port Authority about tying in Tyee Landing with Centennial Pier and the lighthouse pier for future festivals.
Pairing the festival with all the activity on the docks and the industrial businesses on the waterfront would be ideal, Cole said. “This marine district, we would love to see Salmon Fest grow to include that whole area.”
Besides the festival, Salmon Fest also holds the biggest salmon derby of the year as part of its activities. The angler that hauls in the biggest fish of the weekend will win $15,000. Other daily prizes include $5,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place and $1,000 for third place each day. There is also a draw at the end of the derby for $1,000 from all rod tickets sold.
Hidden weights are different this year, as merchants have shared a range of prizes instead of cash. Hidden weight prizes will be available at the info booth at the Salmon Fest site. Prizes range from gift certificates and fishing gear all the way up to a downrigger and outboard motor.
Derby ticket prices will stay at $50 per rod, with $10 going toward salmon enhancement projects.
Last year’s proceeds went to Omega Pacific Hatchery at Great Central Lake and Dan Shannon of Shannon Farms for his small hatchery project on the Bear, Deer, Spaht and Beaver creeks.
The fish survey that accompanied derby tickets last year is not happening this year, Cole said.
For more information on the festival, check out their website at www.salmonfestival.ca and follow them on Facebook.
Share your photos on social media using the hashtag #pasalmonfest2018.