Issaquah’s 50th annual Salmon Days festival took place on Oct. 5 and 6 and was attended by more than 100,000 people. In celebration of the return of the salmon, who come to spawn every fall, the town turned into a party.
There was a carnival with rides and games, live entertainment and music on three stages, wine tasting and a family friendly beer garden, and delightful delicacies of fair food throughout. The smells of elephant ears, funnel cakes, BBQ’ed salmon and kettle corn filled the air.
There were even Korean Cheese Dogs from Puffle Up — gooey deep fried cheese covered in caramelized sugar, then topped with ketchup and mustard. The cheese dogs looked like corndogs, until a diner’s bite created a long string of melted cheese.
Hundreds of vendor booths were on hand, including Seattle radio stations, local farmers, artists, first responders, insurance brokers, candle makers, animal rescues with furry friends for visitors to pet, organizations’ informational tents, and many merchants.
Folks could love on rescue greyhounds and cute kittens, or they could sample jams and honeys. DockDogs jumped and caught flung objects as they plunged into the water.
The fish hatchery was a popular destination, where salmon were visible as well as the shiny facility. F.I.S.H. — Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery — docents were on hand to answer questions. Informational signs were also present, helping explorers young and old to identify the specimens in view.
At every bridge downtown, people peered over to catch a glimpse of the large salmon climbing up the river.
Navigating the massive crowds throughout the festival was a challenge, like swimming upstream.
According to the festival’s website, more than 150,000 people attend each year. Many of them are not from Issaquah.
Vendor Zach Kuper, owner of Garlic Gourmay based in Ariel was selling seasonings, garlic salts, BBQ sauces and an assortment of jarred garlic and vegetables. All of the ingredients for his products are sourced from Washington and Oregon, he said.
He said his family has been running the business and attending all kinds of festivals since the 1980s. Every year they come to Salmon Days, he said, which is different from the rest.
“It seems like, no matter what — it doesn’t matter if there’s rain, hail or hot weather — everybody comes out, everybody loves Salmon Days,” he said. “I like coming here. We’re always busy.”
Curbs were crowded on Saturday as onlookers gathered for the Grande Parade.
Three-year-old Sylvie, dawning protective ear muffs, watched from her dad’s shoulders and waved at the passersby. She was most excited to see princesses and dancers and any ladies dressed up with big pretty dresses or crowns.
“Anything moderately resembling a princess, she just loves,” her dad, Corey Derr, said.
They were there watching with Sylvie’s grandma ,Barb Motley, and mom, Caitlin Derr, as well as 10-month-old baby sister Roya.
Their family lives in Seattle, but they said they love Salmon Days. This is the second time they’ve attended the festival, and their first time at the parade.
“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” Caitlin Derr said.
Floats, bands, dance troupes, and even DeLoreans paraded down the road. Sammy the salmon, the festival’s “oh-FISH-al” mascot led the charge, along with Mayor Mary Lou Pauly.
After the parade, Pauly was at the city’s informational booth in front of City Hall.
“The reason I love Salmon Days is I love this community,” she said. She mentioned the mountains, the town character, the fish and the nice people.
“Six times as many people come to this festival as live here,” she said. “It’s our opportunity to share.”
Many local businesses and organizations were involved in the event, which is organized by the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce with support from the city of Issaquah.