Pacific Rim Whale Festival draws more visitors than ever

Ha-Shilth-Sa, March 23, 2006
Tofino/Ucluelet — 

The Annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival kicked off March 11 just one day after the world learned of the tragic death of Tsu’xiit (Luna).   Despite the sadness and storms, tourists and locals came in droves over the eight days to take part in arts, games, food and activities; all with a distinct whale theme.  

 Hosted by Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park; the festival celebrates the annual migration of the Pacific Grey Whale.

According to Tony Heald, a whale watching tour guide with the Whale Centre in Tofino, the guests of honor did not disappoint. The festival started out with bad weather and very few wanted to venture out to watch the whales but by Thursday the sun came out.  Heald says there were two or three groups with two or three in each group; one had a calf still with its mother. “You can always tell from a distance when there’s a calf,” says Heald. “The mother will blow a big plume then you’ll see a small puff near her and you know that’s the baby.”

Heald says once you see the first whales in the spring you know whale watching only gets better and better over the summer as more arrive.

According to the Festival website the entire North American population of Pacific Grey Whales migrate along the west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C. every spring. An estimated 22,000 grey whales make the 16,000 km round-trip journey between their mating and calving lagoons on the Mexican Baja Peninsula and their summer feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi Seas near the Arctic.

Along the west coast of Vancouver Island whales travel close to the shoreline, providing excellent viewing opportunities from the rocky headlands along the outer coast of our waters.  During the Pacific Rim Whale Festival, free public viewing stations will be set up at Amphitrite Point Lighthouse.

The event kicked off with a dinner and silent auction/fundraiser at the Wickaninnish Inn. All proceeds went to the Pacific Rim Whale Festival Society. Ongoing events included Art Shows, First Nations Artists in Action, salmon hatchery tours, Parks Programs including assembling a Grey whale skeleton, free contests and draws.

Scheduled events included story telling with both Roy Henry Vickers in his gallery and Joe Martin of Tla-o-qui-aht. Martin’s daughter Giselle offered tours of Tofino inlet in traditional dugout canoes during the festival.

Maureen Touchie of Ucluelet First Nation led the Nuu-chah-nulth language workshop and there was also a cedar weaving workshop.

Children enjoyed costume-making, parks programs, painting, model boat making and other whale activities. Adults took part in Chowder chow down, the Martini Migration, the Barnacle Bash and the Sobo seaweed salad events. All of these events were delicious opportunities to sample gourmet food and drinks as restaurants competed with each other to be named the best in 2006.

Visitors could also watch plays and musical entertainment like the Swarm percussion group. The eight day event culminated in a salmon barbeque hosted by Tin Wis Resort; the salmon donated by Creative Salmon. The Salmon Festival Board of Directors, community leaders, employees and volunteers were acknowledged for their tireless efforts in making the Festival the success that it was.

By Denise August,

Ha-Shilth-Sa Reporter