Travis Smith of Port Alberni wins a dare to kiss the fish he caught during the bullhead derby on Saturday

Alberni Salmon Fest will return for another year

The numbers weren't great, but they were good enough for Salmon Fest's Dan Washington to go on record that the festival will return.

Alice Kempton will have a chance to defend her title at another Port Alberni Salmon Festival.

Kempton hauled in a 34.2-pound salmon on Saturday that turned out to be the winner in what could have been a bittersweet event. Organizers weren’t sure whether there would be a future for the Salmon Fest.

Kempton won a total of $10,000 in cash as well as the Fred Duncan Memorial Trophy.

Brian Hickey won the Gary Rooke Memorial Trophy for hatchery-caught fish with his 23-pounder.

Dale Sanderson was honoured with the Egon Matheson Memorial Trophy for Salmon Fest volunteer of the year.

Despite lower angler numbers—around 2,000—chairman Dan Washington said it was enough to look ahead to another year. “I’ve gone on record to say No. 42 is going to happen.  Hopefully at Clutesi,” he said Tuesday.

“From a promotional point of view, I think everything on the ground went very well. I think all the vendors on the grounds had a really good year. As far as stats go, it’s down again from last year. I was hoping for 3,000 rather than closer to 2,000 (anglers).”

The total fish caught (1,239) was lower than usual, but Washington said that’s the only thing that is completely out of his hands. “Fishermen on the water did admit it wasn’t as great as they hoped it would be,” he said.

Organizers are going to look for a major corporate sponsor again, something that was done in the 1970s, when a tobacco company funded the event, Washington said. “For so many years we’ve been proud there’s no commercial groups down there,” he said, but corporate donations will go a long way to keeping the festival going.

“Times are changing and we’ve got to move with them or we won’t survive.”