As its name implies, the Third Annual Bellingham SeaFeast will showcase Bellingham’s waterfront, maritime heritage, and its internationally-renowned fishing and seafood industry’s unsurpassed culinary bounty. But while you’re downing a local oyster or grilled wild salmon, don’t overlook the equally impressive visual and performing arts and musical entertainment they have planned for September 21 and 22, 2018.
Bellingham’s identity lives in the water, the people, and the rich history that ebbs and flows around Bellingham Bay. The waterfront was and has remained life-giving for both the Coast Salish Peoples and the generations of commercial fishermen, boat builders, and fish processors that descended from the European settlers. Bellingham SeaFeast’s free two-day festival each September celebrates this cultural heritage. Its an excellent way to appreciate the best of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Parents dropping students off at Western Washington University should plan to stop by. Taking place across several venues on the waterfront and in the Downtown Bellingham Arts District, the seafood, poetry, visual arts, music, competitions and games, and interactive tours will delight and satisfy visitors and locals of any age or interest.
How it Began
The Bellingham/Whatcom County region has three legacy industries at its roots: agriculture, forestry/wood, and commercial fishing/maritime trades. SeaFeast showcases the maritime sector and its booming economic impact locally, regionally, and internationally. Bellingham SeaFeast was founded as a nonprofit festival after an organizing group won a three-year $75,000 seed grant from the City of Bellingham Tourism Commission. The funds came from the lodging tax from hotel and motel visitors. The City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham continue to collaborate on waterfront redevelopment to intentionally connect the City and its visitors with the bounty of the sea.
An Overview of the Fun
This action-packed weekend opens Friday, September 21, 2018 with Lummi Nation canoes arriving at Waypoint Park and a celebration in Maritime Heritage Park. The Friday Night SeaFeed, a Dungeness Crabfeed (plus salmon, oysters and scallops) on the waterfront (tickets required) can fill your belly. Then you can enjoy an evening at a variety of venues in the Downtown Bellingham Arts District, where you’ll learn about and celebrate our maritime culture through the arts. You can sing along with sea shanties, see videos, and hear original poems, choral performances, and storytelling of life at sea. Don’t miss the FisherPoets-on-Bellingham-Bay all Friday evening (details below) and then close out the night with some unforgettable music.
The seafood feeding fun continues all day Saturday, perfectly paired with local brews and Pacific Northwest music on the Squalicum Harbor waterfront and in Zuanich Point Park. There are also kid-friendly activities planned throughout the day. Below are just a few of the details of all that you can explore at your own pace.
I’m looking forward to seeing my friends Baby Cakes and the ukulele and slide guitar of Orville Johnson. Friday night’s festivities will be closed by a performance by psychedelic fish rock band, Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, at the Sylvia Center for the Arts. Yes, that Ray Troll. The award-winning Alaskan artist known for his beautiful, sometimes humorous, nature drawings including ‘Spawn Til You Die.’ If you’re in town September 20, you can catch Troll’s book signing at Village Books in Historic Fairhaven. They’ll also play again as part of the full line up of music and other entertainment that will appear from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the Zuanich Point Park Main Stage.
Bring chairs, a blanket or your dancing shoes and see a range of music styles and performances. Zuanich Point Park has a beautiful view of the marina, clean restrooms, a playground area for the kids and is ADA accessible.
A celebration of the commercial fishing industry in poetry, prose and song, the FisherPoets Gathering first began in Astoria, Oregon in 1998. Bellingham SeaFeast borrows from their tradition and adds film all evening Friday! A $5 FisherPoets button gets you in to all Friday FisherPoets events. Some FisherPoets we’re expecting are young locals like Maria Dosal and Maggie Bursch, along with long-time FisherPoets performers Geno Leech, Lloyd Montgomery, and Pat Dixon, among many others! Performances include original pieces and you can find them in Downtown Bellingham at Boundary Bay Mountain Room, Honey Moon Mead and Cider and Sylvia Center for the Arts.
Even if poetry isn’t your thing, you can attend an artists reception with marine watercolorist Steve Mayo marine watercolor at Fourth Corner Frames. Pickford Film Center will present ocean-inspired films from 9 to 11 p.m. Friday. The photography of commercial fisherman and National Geographic Photographer Corey Arnold will be projected on downtown buildings.
Allied Arts of Whatcom County is coordinating the art booth and family activities component of this event with an emphasis on depicting our thriving marine heritage and lively Salish Sea. They have invited artists, performers, presenters, and class instructors with a passion for Bellingham’s marine heritage. You can find the work of more than 30 artists in the art booth area near Squalicum Harbor. Artists will share their fine art paintings, metal and glass work, handmade soaps, ceramics, jewelry and more. I like to grab a few Pacific Northwest themed items to include in my holiday gift giving.
Family-Friendly Fun on Saturday
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. families can enjoy the Field of Fun, an array of hands-on, creative, maritime-themed activities for kids and a few for adults too. Friendly competitions will include the XTRATUF Stomp at 2:30 p.m. where two teams of four in fishermen’s boots race. Don’t miss the Herring Toss at 3:50 p.m., where you can test your skills for throwing and catching while slippery.
During the same time frame, families can enjoy Meet Your Fisherman activities at the Sawtooth Dock and Gate 5. From demonstrations and exhibits including knot-tying and net-mending demos, and Guess the Fish Species, everyone will stay entertained.
At 3:30 p.m. you can watch (or swim) in the 3rd Annual Survival Suit Race and to win the Golden Boot Award.
From 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. you can take boat tours of a variety of fishing vessels where everyone learns something new. If you thought a pie eating contest was fun, then don’t miss the 3rd Annual Oyster Shuck & Slurp at 2 p.m. How many oysters can you down in 2 minutes?
Plan nothing else during Bellingham SeaFeast weekend so you can immerse yourself in Bellingham’s maritime culture. Fresh seafood, cold brew, hot music, local art and hands-on history will fascinate the whole family.