Salmon Days Festival is packed to the gills

October 9, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Unseasonably warm weather greets visitors for fun, sun

Thousands of visitors to Salmon Days fill Sunset Way on a warm and sunny Saturday to help set an attendance record for the annual two-day festival. By Greg Farrar

The calendar says it is October. The changing colors of the tree leaves suggest that autumn is in the air and the endless stream of chinook congregating at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery definitely confirms it.

But last weekend, a little piece of summer snuck its way into October, a pleasant surprise for the approximately 180,000 people who flooded downtown Issaquah for this year’s Salmon Days Festival.

For the first time in a few years, visitors were graced with two perfect days of weather at the annual festival Oct 6-7. It was the sunshine and cloudless sky that probably contributed to one of the largest crowds the event has ever had, Salmon Days Festival Director Robin Kelley said.

“A lot of it is the weather,” she said. “You can come out and just enjoy yourself even if you weren’t necessarily planning to come to buy art, but it’s just a great day outside and we’re thrilled.”

For Becky Martinez, it was her first time at the Salmon Days Festival as a vendor, selling her bedazzled headbands. She was just thankful it didn’t rain, because her tent did not have a cover.

“I don’t have a top on my tent, so the weather forecast is being really nice to me,” she said.

Martinez visited the festival as a spectator last year and she said she hopes to continue coming back in the years to come.

“The food smells really good, there are lots of things to look at and people are just having a great time,” she said. “If I could be a vendor, I’d love to come back again, or I’ll just come back and do my shopping.”

The food did smell good as the smell of fries, kettle corn and salmon barbecue billowed through the air on Front Street South and East Sunset Way.

Festivalgoers could be seen maneuvering handfuls of corn on the cob, bushels of cotton candy and cups of shaved ice treats as they explored the busy streets.

On Saturday afternoon, visitors got a taste of the Halloween-season fever when a flash mob broke out near City Hall. About 30 performers, some adorned with spooky eye contacts and fake vampire fangs, did their best Michael Jackson impression and danced to “Thriller.”

Kelley said she coordinated with Sheri Kinley, of the Seattle Thrillers, a group that teaches and performs the iconic dance at events around the area, to bring the flash mob to Salmon Days.

“There were lots of nice experiences for the attendees and the flash mob was a cool highlight,” Kelley said.

As usual, the fish at the heart of the festival were on full display at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery as attendees stood on the hatchery bridge overlooking Issaquah Creek, marveling at the droves of salmon.

It was quite a sight for the city councilmen visiting from Issaquah’s sister city, Chefchaouen, Morocco, who had never seen anything like it.

Councilmen Abdallah El Mhajib and Mustapha Ajjab had the chance to explore the festival, meet with locals and dine on salmon at a dinner.

“We ate as much salmon as they would feed us,” Ajjab said through interpreter Othmane Rahmouni.

The representatives from the sister city operated a booth at the festival and brought local artists from Morocco to share their culture with the Issaquah community.

“Salmon Days is very nice,” El Mhajib said. “It’s very well-organized. We’re very impressed. We’re very happy with the hospitality and all of the wonderful people of Issaquah stopping by the booth.”

The festival went quite well, Kelley said, and visitors seemed to respond favorably to the ‘thrills & gills’ theme, celebrating the Issaquah Rodeo from a century ago.

“It’s really fun that people ask about it and we explain the rodeo that used to be in Issaquah,” she said. “Most people don’t know about it, so it’s really fun to know we’re educating them and informing them about a part of the history and the community they live in because they wouldn’t necessarily know that.”

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