A yearly festival celebrating the return of salmon to the creeks of Issaquah? Sign us up!
Chad and I have been to Issaquah a few times and we love this town. Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Issaquah is a charming town just thirty minutes from Seattle. Issaquah boasts a fantastic salmon hatchery right in their downtown and every year, the town holds a festival celebrating the return of salmon to their birth waters in the Issaquah Creek.
Now in its 43rd year, Salmon Days hosted 185,000 attendees this year. The festival began with the Grande Parade on Saturday morning – which was no small lineup.There were several marching bands, drill teams, princess courts, equestrians, scouts, and many other local groups marching, waving to the crowds, and smiling (Salmon Days is fun for all!).
Chad and I had not anticipated the crowds or the parking madness (the only minor negative of this fest, but, the school system did a great job providing parking locations for only 5 dollars and a short walk from the festivities), so we missed the beginning of the parade, but were glad to catch the tail end. After the parade, we moved with the masses to the arts and crafts fair lining Front Street and Sunset Way. There were more than 250 arts and craft vendors displaying great paintings, ironworks, ceramics, and textiles. Chad and I have seen several arts fairs since we moved to Seattle, but Salmon Days was by far the biggest. We were truly impressed by all the artists in attendance.
From the crafts vendors, we passed the “Foods of the World” – a street lined with food trucks and booths featuring such diverse vendors as Kenyan Kitchen, Morockn’ Bites, Ziegler’s Bratwurst Haus, and Kolossus Gyros. Despite these international treats, we decided to go to the annual Kiwanis Salmon BBQ for our lunch. The Kiwanis offered full and half-dinners of salmon, corn on the cob, coleslaw and a roll. The fish were barbecued to perfection and all the funds go to support the good works of the Kiwanis.
After lunch we enjoyed some bluegrass music performed by the Rusty Cleavers on the Hatchery Stage. There were five music stages throughout the fairgrounds, with music for every style. From there we wandered through the Salmon Hatchery. The Hatchery, which has been in operation since 1936, was the key attraction of Salmon Days, with salmon tanks, fish ladders, and educational exhibits teaching visitors about the different types of salmon. Additionally, the hatchery had an assortment of salmon on display that you could view, learn about their different features, diet and spawning time. This was a really well done exhibit and we both learned something new.
We then made our way to the “Field of Fun” and truly this field lived up to its name. Aside from Human Hamster Balls and pony rides, this field hosted an extreme air show demo and DockDogs!
The Extreme Air Show showcased dynamic skiers and snowboards launching from a jump tower down a metal “hill” and landing in a trampoline base. The skiers and snowboarders did somersaults in the air and some did dynamic jumps on the trampoline. It was a fun sight on a sunny 72 degree day.
The Puget Sound DockDogs captured everyone’s attention – the dogs vie for prizes by jumping great distances into a swimming pool set up for the event. The dogs compete in Big Air, Speed Retrieve Wave, and Extreme Vertical competitions. An oversized tape measure lined the pool and dogs (some more seasoned in the sport than others) jumped anywhere from 1 foot to over 25 feet in the pool.
We stood right next to the pool for the best view, but also got splashed several times! It was fun!
We have to laugh at how our lives have changed since moving to the pacwest. In Chicago in October, we would be listening to German oompah bands, drinking beer and eating delicious bratwursts. (You can do that here, too – see our notes on Leavenworth, Washington, which features one of the best Oktoberfests outside of Germany), but here in Issaquah, we celebrated salmon returning to their birth waters. Both midwest and pacwest traditions are lively and fun and we are happy to have enjoyed such diverse extremes in autumnal celebrations.
Salmon Days is a must see! We definitely plan to return next year, arriving earlier to beat more of the traffic and enjoy more of the parade.
Important Travel Notes:
Parade: The parade starts at 10:00 am on Saturday, but get there early to get good parking and a spot along the parade route. The parade runs along NW Gilman Avenue, starting at Front Street and ending at 12th Avenue in Issaquah
Festival: Free! (but you will pay for food and rides)