About the Festival
Issaquah's Salmon Days Festival is an annual event held the first weekend of October. For more information see the "ohfishal" festival web site.
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The salmon are returning! And so predictable are these creatures that a community can set up streets-full of stalls and information booths, arrange bus shuttles, stage a parade and many other activities, and organize a salmon bake to feed multitudes. All to greet the returning salmon.
Issaquah's Salmon Days Festival, is a great family outing for locals, and a quintessential northwest experience for visitors. It currently attracts over 200,000 festival goers. Dad's can exchange fishing stories, mum's can buy crafts and kids can be stimulated by the "Field of Fun". All can enjoy a northwest version of fair cuisine, including the Kiwanis Salmon Bake, berries and cream, kettle korn and funnel cakes. And of course all can learn more about the salmon.
Downtown Issaquah proudly encompasses the Washington State Salmon Hatchery. The hatchery is sited on Issaquah Creek and the salmon can swim all the way to the holding tanks.
Visitors can follow the salmon as they complete the final stage of their journey. The salmon half-wriggle, half-swim up the shallow creek. Part of the fascination for the onlooker is seeing such large fish in such shallow water. The salmon make their way up the fish ladder and into the holding tanks. These have large viewing windows where visitors can come eye-to-eye with these determined creatures. Such is the instinctual drive to return to their place of origin, that some individuals, mistaking the direction of the ladder, will leap with shocking force into the overhead bars.
Don't be fooled by the festival atmosphere - this is nature in the raw. Emaciated and even decomposing due to freshwater bacteria, these creatures are in the process of giving up their lives for the next generation. A closer look through the holding tank windows will reveal many individuals with gruesome wounds.
The females are searching for gravel in which to lay their eggs which can then be fertilized by the males. But this is a hatchery and the holding tank with its bare concrete floor is the end of the line. The fish can only mill about futilely. Given the strength of desire that brought the salmon this far, it is hard not to see the removal of their goal as harsh deprivation.
Such pondering reveals that when watching the return of the salmon it is hard not to identify with their struggle and singularity of purpose and perceive a kind of heroism in their effort. It is certainly a powerful living symbol of determination and self-sacrifice.
No wonder the people, like the salmon, return year after year.
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