Bear Creek Salmon Festival offers food, music and fun for all ages

There can be a bit of a wow factor in discovering what the submerged net at Bear Creek shows. picture sent

North Mountain Nature Center volunteers show children the types of creatures that live in Bear Creek.

The pandemic has reminded us that all good things must come to an end – at least temporarily.

But the return of the Bear Creek Salmon Festival in Ashland proves the old saying that good things come to those who wait.

After a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, the free event returns to the North Mountain Park Nature Center on Saturday, October 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with music, food, and all the activities that made the festival a fall favorite. Rogue Valley Families.

“We’ve really missed seeing our community during the pandemic,” said coordinator Jane Aguayo, who works at the North Mountain Park Nature Center to manage parks and recreation in Ashland.

“Bear Creek Salmon Festival is very local. We see our friends and neighbours, we share food, we listen to good music, and the children explore the park and play. “It’s a fun relationship for all ages,” she said.

Local experts will be on hand to offer outdoor activities for all ages. It will include interactive exhibits, children’s activities, live animals, salmon education, Native American demonstrations, casting houses and storytelling.

“We are very excited about our music lineup this year,” Aguayo said.

Musical acts are booked all day, starting with guitar and soft vocals by Greta Gardiner. The next set will include the three-part harmonies, guitar, banjo and violin from Bekkah and Dusty Rubies. Festival-goers will end their day dancing and grooving to the music of Frankie Hernandez and his band.

“Between groups in the pavilion, visitors can head to the salmon cooking area to listen to Tommy Graven’s amazing guitar and flute,” Aguayo said.

Did someone say cook salmon? Well, it’s a salmon festival, and Tom Smith will honor it, cooking salmon the traditional way, on stakes over a well-kept fire pit.

Libby Fanoy is the director of the North Mountain Park Nature Center.

“As long as you’re here, Tom joins us to cook salmon,” she said. “He brings all his intent to cooking and preserving the culture he represents.”

The Cultural and Environmental Enhancement Network will grind walnuts at the festival.

“I love participating and representing Native Americans at this event,” VanWyhe said.

The festival honors the return of the autumnal Chinook salmon, with the goal of educating people of all ages about the watershed and sharing opportunities to steward the biome.

“We do it while having fun, enjoying nature as a community,” she said.

Although there will be opportunities for most people to sample Salmon Smith’s chef over the fire pit, there won’t be enough to serve up a salmon dinner for everyone.

“That’s why we have Cheketos Fatso as this year’s food vendor,” VanWyhe said. Popular Medford keto food truck has made a name for itself by serving people’s favorite foods in keto versions – with lower carbs and sugar.

Aguayo says the food cart will serve a variety of dishes.

“There will be a lot of gluten-free options,” she said. “They will also have a vegetarian dish, a kid-friendly dish, and something cold and refreshing to drink.”

Organizers are promoting the festival as a no-waste event, asking visitors to bring reusable water bottles or cups. Food truck shows will be on reusable plates presented by festival partner Lend-Me-a-Plate. Volunteers will help wash and sanitize dishes, and help get rid of the pounds of trash usually associated with an event of its size.

“We have several different shifts so that volunteers can help out and enjoy the event,” Aguayo said.

Those interested in helping can contact Volunteer Coordinator Suleiman Shelton at 541-552-2264, or email him at sulaiman.shelton@ashland.or.us.

Aguayo gets a lot of satisfaction from his participation in this event.

“I love connecting people to their home,” she said. “Today focuses on salmon, local watersheds and all the roads that intertwine between us. We rely on healthy watersheds like salmon.”

VanWyhe, who became director of the center in 2013, began working at North Mountain Park as a volunteer in 2008 and has also helped with the festival, which is now in its 16th year.

“There is something for everyone in this event,” she said. “Plus, people love to explore the creek and look for large aquatic invertebrates. What’s more fun than looking for water bugs with the kids?”

A few years ago, the festival included a bead bracelet activity similar to a scavenger hunt. “Kids love it!” VanWyhe said.

As a way to encourage children to explore all aspects of the festival, beads are distributed in each area.

“Kids collect colored beads to make a bracelet, and a complete bracelet wins a salmon prize,” she said.

North Mountain Park is located at 620 N. Mountin Avenue in Ashland. Entry to the festival is free.

For updates and more information, go online to bearcreeksalmonfestival.net.

Contact writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

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