By Joan Cronk
Last Saturday at Mill Pond Park in Eatonville, it was all about salmon.
The day started out foggy everywhere but the park, where the sun shone brightly as visitors enjoyed the first Eatonville Salmon Fest.
Mayor Ray Harper said the day was a celebration of the return of the salmon.
“The Nisqually Tribe, along with the federal government, put a wooden structure in the Mashel River, giving the salmon a place to be safe. Today we are honoring them,” he said.
At the opening ceremony, Harper welcomed the crowd and thanked the generosity of the tribe.
“The river is full of salmon because of efforts of the tribe. The Nisqually Tribe has been very generous to the town,” he said.
As a tribute to the Nisquallys, Harper presented them with an original painting by a local artist. Upon accepting the painting, a spokesperson for the tribe said they are enjoying the collaboration with Eatonville for the restoration of the salmon.
Bob Sison of the tribe burned sage and led the blessing at the opening ceremony.
“We use this sage to bless Tahoma, our mountain,” he said.
Katherine Cavanaugh ran a booth where folks could apply paint to a real salmon and then imprint the shape onto a t-shirt. Steve Pruitt watched as his delighted 3-year-old daughter, Rosalea, spread paint onto the salmon, after which they visited other booths as her new t-shirt dried for the trip home.
A few of the tours offered on Saturday were a Mashel River logjam tour – the structures Harper referred to – led by Kim Gridley of the tribe, a planting demonstration at Smallwoood Park led by Cathy Sampselle of the tribe, and a nature-mapping workshop at Smallwood Park.
At the National Park Service booth, NPS employee Jim Ross explained that the service planned to re-introduce the fisher (a member of the weasel family) to the park.
“They are the size of a large family cat, and porcupine is their favorite food,” he said.
Debbie and Ed Lovelady came to the celebration because their son-in-law was working in one of the booths, and they were pleasantly surprised with the event.
Speaking of the opening ceremony, Debbie said, “I think it is good to have this much participation for the first time ,and it is beautiful to watch.”
“I enjoyed the blessing,” said Ed, adding, “It was a good way for all of us to start our day.”
The Nisqually Tribe and the Nisqually River Council, leaders in salmon restoration efforts locally and regionally, hosted the festival.
The event got an early start Friday with a free salmon dinner for the public. The tribe provided salmon for 200 meals that were served at Eatonville Community Center.