The Port Alberni Salmon Festival has a new home for its 46th year: Tyee Landing beside Fisherman’s Wharf.
Salmon Fest has traditionally taken place at Clutesi Haven Marina, home to the Alberni Valley Tyee Club—the first group to run the annual fishing derby. The salmon festival society learned before the 45th Salmon Fest in 2016 that holding the event at Clutesi Haven wouldn’t be possible for 2017, as landowners the Port Alberni Port Authority expected construction to be taking place in August or September.
“The port authority renewed their lease with the City of Port Alberni, a request for proposals was issued; the timelines when I met with Mayor Mike Ruttan and Zoran (port authority CEO Zoran Knezevic), it should have been a construction zone by now,” Salmon Fest president Dan Washington said.
“Eventually something is going to be happening down there, so it was ‘move now or move later’.”
Salmon Fest organizers are looking at 2017 as a transition year as they work out how to fit pre-existing equipment into the new site. “We think the footprint is bigger than the old (festival) but until a lot of our tents and booths and stuff are set up” they won’t know for sure, Washington said.
The bullhead derby has been cancelled (see story on page B10) because test fisheries at Fisherman’s Wharf, where the derby was to be held, didn’t turn up any bullheads. The celebrity dunk tank will not be there this year either, Washington said.
The salmon barbecue will still be a focal point of the weekend, as will free live entertainment. “Dave Rutherford’s got an amazing lineup of entertainment,” he said.
The beer garden will be set up on-site, and the Rotary, crisis society and Alberni Valley Rescue Society draws will still take place.
Sunday will still feature children’s activities from noon to 3 p.m., with the ADSS Armada cheerleaders. The ADSS rugby club will run the souvenir booth. Contending fish will be kept on display in a cooler near Tyee Pier.
“The focus is still on the mix of fishing and entertainment,” Washington said.
“There’s fuel, there’s plenty of space to tie up or moor your boats. You can go up the gangway to weigh your fish and go back to clean it. There will be plenty of parking.
“There won’t be the congestion on Monday with people trying to load their boats because that will happen down at Clutesi Haven Marina.”
The new site has not come without its challenges, Washington said.
The site is not wired the same way as Clutesi Haven Marina, so the Salmon Fest Society has had to bring in diesel generators. There is no plumbing to accommodate the washroom trailers the society had at Clutesi “so we’re upping the porta-potty count,” Washington said.
They also have to bring in grey water tanks for the kitchen and salmon barbecue, because of the lack of plumbing.
They will bring in a temporary scale to weigh contending fish, and the port authority is installing a cleaning table on Tyee Pier.
“Our biggest concern is wind. We’ve never been down there and we’re going to have all kinds of tents set up there.”
While festival organizers aren’t looking at Tyee Landing as a permanent location yet, the potential is there, says Washington.
“The port authority to (install) the power we want it would be a $20,000 investment. We want to try it before we invest in the property,” he said.
“If it’s successful we’ll start planning for more permanent facilities down there,” he added.
“It’s going to be a huge learning curve for everybody. I hope the public will understanding with us as we endure our growing pains.”
The festival kicks off Friday night at Tyee Landing with music, salmon barbecue and fireworks from a barge in the Alberni Harbour around 9:30 p.m. It wraps up at 4 p.m. on Monday with awards for the biggest fish.