James Mollet, 11, takes his turn tending the grill at the 2019 Salmon Fest barbecue. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

James Mollet, 11, takes his turn tending the grill at the 2019 Salmon Fest barbecue. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

EDITORIAL: Opportunity awaits for Port Alberni’s 2022 salmon derby

Volunteers need to step up if Salmon Fest is to return

For the second year in a row, the Alberni Valley Tyee Club pulled off a successful Labour Day salmon derby despite COVID-19 restrictions forcing cancellation of the accompanying festival.

The wet weather and—for some—lack of fish notwithstanding, the derby was a hit with more than 1,700 fishers and curious spectators who ventured down to Centennial Pier to check out the weigh station and leaderboard.

Tyee Club members and Carolyn Jasken’s Ultimate Fishing Town crew deserve kudos for keeping the derby alive and thriving. There were even some small side events planned to coincide with the derby: live music outdoors at Harbour Quay on Saturday night and the Alberni Valley Rock and Gem Club’s second outdoor market of the summer at Spirit Square.

A number of people have taken to social media opining for Port Alberni’s salmon festival to return to Clutesi Haven Marina instead of Tyee Landing, where it was relocated prior to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down festivals for the past two years.

Many didn’t care for the new location, saying it changed the dynamic of the festival.

Change is hard. Trying to fit the old Salmon Fest into the footprint of Tyee Landing caused growing pains for the first couple of years, and having to cancel for reasons out of their control in 2020 and 2021 didn’t help organizers.

Looking forward to 2022, keeping Salmon Fest in the new location represents an opportunity for expansion.

The AV Lions Club ran a successful children’s Bullhead Derby in late August at Harbour Quay Marina, changing their location from Clutesi for a variety of reasons. Imagine if they were to bring the bullhead derby back to festival weekend: that would mean Salmon Fest events could conceivably stretch from the Maritime Discovery Centre all the way to Tyee Landing, including Harbour Quay in the middle.

There is one certainty for the 2022 Salmon Festival: it cannot happen without volunteers. The Kiwanis Club of Port Alberni, whose members took on the salmon barbecue as well as organizing Salmon Fest, was hit with such dwindling numbers it folded this year.

If we want a festival to go with the derby next year, now is the time for others to step up.

— Alberni Valley News

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