Salmon to hog all the action in Issaquah's "wild" festival
Think fish on a motorcycle. Wild versus farm-raised. And — here's the kicker — Steppenwolf. Yes, "Born to be Wild" is this year's...
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
Think fish on a motorcycle. Wild versus farm-raised. And — here's the kicker — Steppenwolf.
Yes, "Born to be Wild" is this year's theme for Issaquah Salmon Days.
Call it Easy Rider meets Issaquah salmon. The black Harley Davidson-type T-shirts — picturing a snarling, denim-clad salmon riding a motorbike — are already flying off the shelves. Goldy McJohn, ex-keyboardist for Steppenwolf, which recorded the 1968 mega hit, will lead the parade as Grand Marshall. Eastside Harley Davidson is a sponsor.
"It's taken on a life of its own this year," said Robin Kelley, festival director. She points to a stuffed salmon doll in a leather jacket striding atop a toy Harley at the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce office, the epicenter of event preparations.
Such quirkiness endears Salmon Days to festival-goers from around the state. Now in its 37th year, the, ahem, wildly popular event draws more than 150,000 visitors to Issaquah every year and generates a $7.5 million economic impact for the city, according to the chamber.
Issaquah Salmon Days is Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown Issaquah. Arts and crafts, entertainment stages, the salmon hatchery and hundreds of street vendors are among the festival activities. The Grande Parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Free parking and $1 roundtrip shuttle service is available at:
• Costco Corporate Parking Lot at 10th Avenue Northwest. From Interstate 90, exit No.15, and head north to 10th Avenue Northwest.
• Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride lot between Northeast Park Drive and Northeast High Street. From I-90, exit No. 18, and head north to the lot.
• Issaquah Park-and-Ride lot at the intersection of Newport Way and Highway 900.
Shuttles run every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Children 5 and under ride free. For more information, visit www.salmondays.org.
Source: Issaquah Chamber of Commerce
"Born to be Wild" is just the latest in a string of pun themes that have become a staple over the past nearly two decades. Among the memorable catch-phrases: "Spawning the Century" , "Something's Fishy in Issaquah" , and "Up a Creek." And, of course, there's the ever popular "Salmonchanted Evening," the spawn-sors dinner that kicks off the festival Friday.
These light-hearted, groaner slogans give Salmon Days its trademark reputation as the ultimate homespun festival, said Scott Nagel, executive director of Washington Festivals and Events, who has been going to Salmon Days since 1980.
He credits the witty word play as one of its major assets. Salmon Days has, in fact, made a splash on the awards scene for its creative use of language, earning recognition from Nagel's organization and the International Festivals and Events Association.
"Every year, you can't wait to see the posters and see what they've done that's so clever," Nagel said. "I go to hundreds of festivals, and you seldom see anyone do that. Salmon Days has a very special personality."
The themes don't always spawn in an office meeting room. Oftentimes, they hatch out of nowhere — and come, unsolicited, from anyone.
1995 Big Fish in Issaquah — Catch us at Salmon Days
1996 Running Again in '96
1997 Salmon Reign
1998 Stream of Dreams
1999 Migrating to the Millennium
2000 kids, chaos and coho!
2001 2001: A Salmon Odyssey
2002 Up a Creek
2004 Go Fish
2005 There's Something in the Water
2006 Born to be Wild
Source: Issaquah Chamber of Commerce
Last year's "There's Something in the Water" jumped out of a pool of proposals from the festival's graphic designer. Five years ago, Kelley's husband came up with "2001: A Salmon Odyssey."
Inspiration for this year's theme struck Kirkland resident Cindy Sugiura last November. Her daughter, Leslie, was working for Salmon Days and asked the family for ideas.
Sugiura's husband is a commercial fisherman and she drives a car with a bumper sticker that reads: "Wild fish don't do drugs." So it didn't take her long to come up with a prize catch. "What about 'Born to be Wild'?" she blurted out. Her daughter brought the idea to Kelley, who spotted a winner.
Producing the event is an upstream battle. More than 500 volunteers help pull it off every year. Those in the thick of it draw on the salmon spirit to keep staffers going.
Robin Spicer, graphic designer for Salmon Days, sends out daily e-mails with a catchy fish phrase. One this week: "You put your right fin in, you put your right fin out. You do the Coho Pokey and you turn yourself around." Another: "Salmon Days Dreamin'. Relax. Breathe. You are about to be Born Again — Wild."
After Sunday, when the booths come down and the streets buzz again with passing cars, festival staffers and volunteers will bandy about potential themes for next year.
And the cycle begins anew.
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or email@example.com
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