Celebrate, and learn about, salmon at fun- and fact-filled Coho Fest

From swim and run events, scientific talks and entertaining musicians, kids zone and nature walks, the celebration of all things salmon returns to Ambleside park on Sept. 8

When salmon returns to the place of their birth to spawn, they can travel more than 50 kilometres a day.

Compare that to the 1.5 or 3 km Coho Festival swim race and it seems the least that participants can do to raise money to support the local organizations that are working hard to benefit the sustainability of salmon and other fish.

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The Coho Swim is one of several fun events on Sunday, Sept. 8 that not only celebrate the International Year of the Salmon but also the 40th anniversary of Coho Fest. The Coho Swim and Coho Run get an early start, but most activities take place at Ambleside Beach Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Unfortunately, the Coho Walk is cancelled this year.)

Coho fest swimmer
If Coho Swim participants think they have it hard, think of the salmon that swim up to 50 kilometres a day to reach their spawning grounds. - Cindy Goodman

Those whose curiosity leads them to want to learn more about our local environment will enjoy the Tent Talks. Featured speakers include research scientist Dr. Richard Beamish who will share preliminary findings from a recent scientific expedition he led from the Pacific Rim to the Gulf of Alaska as part of salmon conservation activities. You can also learn what can be done to help our orca populations and why you should remember to bring that reusable bag to the grocery store.

In the Stewardship Zone, local conservation groups will let you know why the day is so important to raise awareness and money for their initiatives, while nature walks will explore our local environment. 

But the day is not all about serious subjects. Children will find lots to amuse them at the Seaspan Kids Zone while everyone will be kept entertained by the performances on the main stage, including a show by Canadian fan favourites Doug and the Slugs. (Fear not: salmon don’t eat slugs.)

Here’s a rundown of how you can participate in the festival on Sept. 8:

·         Coho Swim: start time is 9 a.m. at Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. Swimmers must wear a body suit. Online registration ($60) closes on Sept. 5 but you can also register that morning ($70). Medals for top male and female swimmers in both 1.5 and 3 km distances.

·         Coho Run: race time is 9 a.m. but runners are asked to check in at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The 14 km route along English Bay, through Stanley Park and across the Lions Gate Bridge ends at Ambleside Beach Park. Registration is $70 and includes a breakfast at the finish line and draw prizes.

·         Blessing of the Salmon ceremony: A Squamish Nation leader will join master of ceremonies Dan Burritt of the CBC to welcome everyone to the festival from noon to 12:50 p.m.

Doug and the Slugs
For those who think it's "too bad" that they haven't heard from Doug and the Slugs lately, the band will perform at Coho Fest at Ambleside beach on September 8, 2019. - Supplied/Doug and the Slugs

·         Music on the main stage: Cannery Row, a New Orleans-style blues band, plays from noon to 12:45 p.m.; Mostly Marley performs reggae hits from 2 to 2:55 p.m.; local favourite The Adam Woodall band performs from 3:10 to 4:15 p.m.; and Canadian favourite Doug and the Slugs takes to the stage from 4:30 to 5:55 p.m. to close out the day’s festivities.

·         Seaspan Kids Zone: Along with enjoying scheduled events (below), children can test their climbing prowess on the Climb 5 Climbing Wall, bounce till they drop at the Save-On-Foods bouncy castle. Meinhardt hosts a cookie-decorating station and there are also wooden anchor and SandFunz craft stations. The Red Fox Society Youth Leaders will teach kids all about stilt-walking, diablo and flower sticks. Teens, and adults, too, will want to drop by the Mehndi & More Henna Artists station for a lasting – but not too lasting – memento of the day.

·         Seaspan Kids Zone scheduled events: participate in the Champions Kickboxing and Martial Arts Academy demonstrations from 11 to 11:30 a.m. and again from 12:30 to 1 p.m. The Vanleena Dance team will be teaching some cool moves from 11:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 1:30 p.m. New this year are special guests the Welh Tima Kexwusem Squamish Nation Dance Group who perform from noon to 12:30 p.m. and again from 2 to 2:30p.m.. Sixteen-year-old folk-pop musician Ashley Pater tells her stories with a fun energy from 1:30 to 2 p.m. and, if you miss her then, she’ll be engaging her audience for a full hour between 3 and 4 p.m. Shake off some extra energy at the mascot dance party from 2:30 to 2:45 so that Don Kline will have the kids’ full attention when he leads a ukulele workshop from 4 to 4:30 p.m.

Coho Fest plastics
Various environmental groups will have booths at Coho Fest 2019 to remind people of how human behaviour affects our salmon populations - for good and bad. - Cindy Goodman/file

·         Tent Talks: the schedule includes Seaspan’s sustainable initiatives in its local tug, barge and ferry operations from 11 to 11:30 a.m.; biologist Jessica Scott’s insights into killer whales in crisis and the threats facing the recovery of B.C’s most iconic animals from 11:30 a.m. to noon; the reasons why more and more jurisdictions are banning plastic bags to protect marine food webs with researcher Rhiannon Moore from noon to 12:30 p.m.; the efforts underway to protect Salish Sea marine life – including our beloved salmon - with project co-ordinator Dr. Isobel Pearsall from 12:30 to 1 p.m.; insights into what we have learned from the coho story with Dr. Beamish from 2:30 to 3 p.m.; and a discussion about whether the salmon whose journey to their spawning grounds were blocked by the Fraser River rockslide will survive from 3 to 3:30 p.m.

·         Nature walks: led by Lacey Baker-tsitsayxemaat, the guided tours leave the village at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

·         Squamish Nation Village: Nation ambassadors will share stories and kids can make a salmon necklace or fish hat. Be sure to enter the draw for a stunning salmon carving and sterling silver bracelet designed and donated by Richard E. Baker of the Squamish Nation.

·         Save-On-Foods dining garden: wild coho salmon is on the menu from 11:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., along with hot dogs, B.C. corn on the cob and salads. For dessert, Vancouver’s Earnest Ice Cream is bringing along some of its most popular natural flavours. The garden is licensed, with beer and wine available.

There is very limited parking so people are encouraged to bike, walk or take public transit. For those who bring their bikes, West Vancouver police are offering free bike registration to #endbiketheft. Further details and event registration can be found on the Coho Festival page at www.cohosociety.com.

Events to celebrate International Year of the Salmon don’t end at Coho Fest. On B.C. Rivers Day, Sept. 29, there will be an open house at the Mackay Creek Hatchery and Heywood Park. On World Rivers Day, Sept. 29, the District of North Vancouver is unveiling the Lynn Creek community art project.

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