Organizers are hoping to make the 48th annual Port Alberni Salmon Festival more friendly for young families and children.
Salmon Fest will take place from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 at Tyee Landing. With only two years to go until the 50-year celebration, organizers are focusing on growing the event and including plenty of family-friendly activities.
2019 could mark the return of the historic Great Bed Race, as long as there are enough people registered. It’s been nearly three decades since the bed races were a part of the Salmon Festival, but the event used to be “a lot of fun,” said organizer Bill Surry.
“We were really wanting to do something more family oriented,” he explained. “We wanted to bring back some of the things we used to have and see what people think.”
This year will also feature the return of the popular bullhead derby. The derby was cancelled back in 2017 by the Alberni Valley Lions Club after the move from Clutesi Haven Marina to Tyee Landing. The reason? There were no bullheads at Tyee Landing. In 2018, the Lions Club partnered with the Maritime Discovery Centre to hold a new bullhead derby one week before Salmon Fest. Derby Day took place on Aug. 24 this year.
But Salmon Fest organizers want to bring the bullhead derby back to Labour Day weekend after its two-year absence.
“This year the bullhead derby will be sponsored by the Uptown Merchants [Association],” explained Chris Washington. “The rules will be a little different. People will be able to fish wherever they want to in the Valley for bullheads.”
The derby takes place Sunday, Sept. 1 from sunrise until 11 a.m. and is open to children 12 and under. Catch your bullhead anywhere in the Valley and bring it to Tyee Landing—still alive—between 10 a.m. and 10:59 a.m. for weigh-in. There will be gold, silver and bronze medals for the biggest bullheads caught.
Other activities for youth will include kids’ yoga sponsored by the Power of Three on Saturday and Sunday, a fish scavenger hunt at various booths across Tyee Landing, face painting, balloon animals, bubbles, a bouncy obstacle course, giant Jenga and a fish pond.
“We’re looking at all sorts of things to do,” said Washington. “We’re just continuing to have [the festival] grow and change before our 50th year.”
Another major change this year is food. Although the Kiwanis Club is still cooking up the popular salmon dinner, there will also be a number of other food trucks and food vendors on site—everything from hot dogs to donairs to Mexican food.
“This is our first year for this,” said Washington. “It’s very exciting.”
Washington admitted that part of the reason for the change is a shrinking Kiwanis Club membership.
“We’re trying to downsize what our commitments are,” she said. “But we also wanted to make it a different experience. It’s time for the Salmon Fest to grow and change.”
Although Salmon Festival is “pretty set” when it comes to food vendors, organizers are still looking for artisan and merchant vendors who want to be part of the festivities at Tyee Landing. If you are interested, email Chris at email@example.com for more information.
When it comes to liquor, Salmon Festival is hoping to become an “open concept” event, so they can do away with the beer garden and people will be able to carry their alcoholic beverages throughout the site. Twin City Brewing will be on site this year with a signature “Salmon Festiv-Ale” drink.
Washington said that both the liquor inspector and RCMP have called it a “good location” for an open concept. There will be a gate at the entrance to keep track of attendance.
“We’re still working on that,” said Washington. “We’re working on getting it to be open. At this point, it’s looking very positive.”
The one thing that has not changed for the 2019 Salmon Fest is the $15,000 prize money to be awarded to one lucky fisherman for the largest fish of the derby, Dan Washington said. The cost per rod this year will remain at $50, with $10 going directly to salmon enhancement. There are also many hidden weight prizes up for grabs.
Didn’t catch a fish? All rod entries, for the fourth year in a row, will go into a hat after the festival and one lucky entrant can pick up a cheque for $1,000 compliments of Gone Fishin’.