As surely as Pacific salmon will spawn upstream throughout our province between late summer and late autumn, clearly, nothing can stop the Coho Festival from returning – virtually for the 2nd year.
The beloved event has been a popular feature on the Lower Mainland’s social calendar since 1979. The volunteer-managed Coho Society of the North Shore conceived the festival as an entertaining, all-ages celebration of the “miracle” of salmon spawning. The event offers an opportunity to raise awareness surrounding current and potential threats to local waterways, watersheds and fisheries and includes a means to raise funds for numerous environmental groups involved in stream protection and salmonid enhancement activities (The Society has raised over $750,000 to date).
Last year, the Coho Festival, like many public gatherings throughout the region and around the world, was faced with the obstacle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival typically brings together thousands of people at Ambleside Park, in West Vancouver.
Luckily for everyone, the Coho Society was determined that the festival would go on —somehow.
Take to the land
Ron Putzi, Executive Director of the Coho Festival, considers the usual Coho Run to be “the world’s most beautiful 14-kilometre run.
Following last year’s model – which drew registrants from ten different countries – this year’s virtual Coho Run participants can register for either a 5k, 10k or 14k route and complete the run anytime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1.
Runners can use an app to track their time and distance, then upload the results before Oct. 8. Participants are invited to challenge themselves against the times of accomplished runners including former BC Lion Geroy Simon, Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield, national champion sport climber Alannah Yip, Mayor of West Vancouver Mary-Ann Booth, and Squamish Nation cultural ambassador Chief Ian Campbell. Prizes will be awarded each week to those who upload their time before midnight Saturday.
Take to the Sea
The Coho Swim, meanwhile, gives participants the challenge of pitting themselves against two-time Summer Olympics freestyle swimming competitor Turlough O’Hare, Canadian Olympic Trials medal winner Markus Thormeyer, two-time Summer Olympics competitor Richard Hortness, multi-medal-winner Emily Overholt, and Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly, whom Putzi notes has “twice swam the length of the Fraser River in an effort to draw people’s attention to salmon conservation.” Register online for either a 1500m or 3000m swim, track your time and distance anytime between Sept. 1 and Oct. 1, and upload your results before Oct. 8. As with the Coho Run, weekly prizes will be awarded.
…And there's more
New this year – You can participate in a Salmon & Streams Coho Treasure Hunt. During the month of September, participants can hunt for letter clues outlined on a map that is available for download online (you can also do it virtually). While on the hunt, they will learn more about salmon, community projects, publicart along with Coho Society salmon conservation initiatives across the North Shore. The winner also walks away with their Explore North Shore Grand Prize valued at $350.
The Coho Treasure Hunt takes place in four self-guided Interpretive Walks, each showcasing major community art projects as well as public artworks and salmon conservation initiatives. The Coho Treasure Hunt and Interpretive Walks were created in partnership with North Shore Culture Compass.
Lastly, instead of the festival’s traditional salmon barbecue, four Save-On-Foods North Shore locations will be featuring Coho salmon and recommended meal accompaniments, with half of all profits going to the Coho Society. Last year this collaboration raised almost $7,000 in a single weekend – a “remarkable achievement amid the pandemic,” says Putzi.
The 42nd annual “virtual edition” of the Coho Festival runs Sept. 1-Oct. 1, 2021. For more information and to register for the Coho Run and the Coho Swim, visit cohofestival.com.