Salmon Days hauls in the crowds
October 8, 2013
By Peter Clark
“Abundant sunshine” was how weather.com described the forecast for this year’s Salmon Days and it did not lie.
From the Field of Fun to the Go Fish! Stage, many smiles could be seen in the bright October air that accompanied 70-degree temperatures, talented art vendors and delicious food from all over the world. Though an exact number of how many came to celebrate the return of the salmon to Issaquah Creek was unavailable at press time, Festival Director Robin Kelley said it seemed the festival might have seen more than last year’s 180,000 visitors.
“There’s been an increase in some way,” Kelley said. “I know that some of the first indicators say that the shuttles were almost overwhelmed.”
The Issaquah Police Department is responsible for estimating crowd attendance and Kelley said a number would not be available for another few days.
She did not have to estimate that the festival went swimmingly.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It was just amazing.”
Much of that was due to a last gasp of summer weather.
“We had the best weather for the parade,” Kelley said, about the participants making the most out of the warm weekend. “It’s lovely to see them get to be in the sunshine. The weather was just stellar. I looked at them and thought to myself, ‘This is what it’s about.’”
Still, the success of festival did not rest on a cloudless sky.
“That’s the great thing about living in the Northwest,” Kelley said. “People come out even if it is raining.”
Not only the weather complied, but most everything else seemed to as well. Kelley said no major hiccups threatened the celebration. The only slight problem over the weekend was the displacement of the familiar park & ride spot near Costco. As the company builds a new parking structure, shuttle services moved elsewhere and though signs were posted, Kelley said a few were inconvenienced.
“People couldn’t figure out why the shuttle didn’t come,” she said. “That was hard, but we put up even more signage.”
The crowd resembled the salmon in a constant flowing stream around the event. Justin Hillgrove’s art booth was one of many that attracted onlookers and customers. The Snohomish artist creates off-kilter paintings of monsters, robots, characters and cuteness. Salmon Days visitors gathered to peruse the works of his imagination while he painted a scene under the tent. Hillgrove said it was his fourth year with a booth at Salmon Days and it never disappoints.
“Issaquah’s always great,” Hillgrove said. “It’s fantastic and we are thankful for the weather.
“It feels great, especially after a week of rain,” he added. “There’s nothing worse than sitting out here in the rain.”
Salmon Days has been a tourism vehicle for its 44 years and Kelley said it is a magnificent way to bring people to the city.
“We want people to come and explore Issaquah and then come back,” she said. “It’s a tourism draw. We’re putting people on the streets that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.”
Having served with the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce for 22 years and with the Salmon Days festival for all by two of those, Kelley has heard her fair share of praise for the festival. However, the words never lose their impact.
“Everyone told us the festival was so nice,” Kelley said of this year’s event. “To hear that over and over again, that’s really powerful.”