Monday, October 5, 2009

Seductively Salmon Days

Last weekend we went to Salmon Days, a festival with a slightly deceptive name.

I didn’t eat anything all morning because I assumed I’d be eating all things salmon related. I pictured rows of vendors with salmon steaks grilling on a bbq fed by cedar chips. Delicious Coho, Sockeye, Shinook varietals. But I couldn’t find them. Perhaps a salmon sandwich or something creative like salmon crepes. Nope. At the very least I’d procure fried salmon on a stick (ala corn-dog style). Zilch. Nada.

Then we discovered why it’s called Salmon Days. A stream runs through this town (Issaquah) giving the salmon a passageway to return to their birthplace in the mountains. What we learned (from a fish docent wearing 82 pieces of flair on her vest…very reminiscent of a TGIF waitress) was that the fish are actually in the process of dying when they return. They stop eating and shut down their immune systems so that days after they lay eggs they die.

At one particular junction in the stream there is a fish hatchery that creates an artificial dam and diverts the salmon into large holding tanks. Then they wait for the salmon to lay eggs and artificially spawn the eggs ensuring that the population of salmon remains stable. If they didn’t do this there would be no salmon left because industrial development has left the river too warm to sustain large populations of salmon. However, one stage of this process involves volunteers killing the fish after they have spawned in the hatchery (others are released upstream).

I stood behind this one woman as the fish docent explained this process. She was incredulous and kept repeating “You mean you kill the fish?” And the kind old docent would say “You see, the fish are already dying, it’s inevitable.” And she would say “But you hit them with a mallet on the nose?” To which he replied, “Lady, normally the fish’s lungs will start stop working, it will wash up on a log or the river bank, and it will struggle and flap around until it suffocates out of water. Instead we end their life quickly. It’s actually less painful for the fish.” The woman shook her head with disapproving eyes.

Another interesting aspect of the Salmon Days festival was a subtle undercurrent of sexuality. Keep in mind this is a family affair. First, the firefighters of Issaquah had put together a racy calendar which they were selling (mostly to teenage girls). Second, a stand was selling chocolate-covered strawberries called Dingleberries (yikes). This dessert entails a row of strawberries on a stick with a strikingly phallic shaped chocolate-covered banana at the end. Third, we passed a booth advertising “the only credible voice of reason in the fight for nude recreation.” The sign displayed over-weight retired couples with strategically placed bush branches. A hail to our ancestors Adam and Eve. Finally, there was a contraption for kids to play on involving a series of ropes, harnesses, and nets. The wording of the sign used ropes to spell out the name of the device. Unfortunately the graphic designer hadn’t thought this thru very well. It read: Rape-a-Phobia. I believe the intended spelling was “Rope.” It didn’t help that all 3 kids currently on the Rape-a-Phobia were crying hysterically. Although this kind of environment was perfect for me to find a Christmas present for my brother Steve, who has a strong academic interest in sexuality.

Other noted notables of the week: Did you know that women’s deodorant advertises “Extra responsive in emotional moments.” For example, when we’re shopping and bump into a girl I went on a few dates with in college.


  1. This festival is almost as good as the onion festival in Walla Walla - except they closed that one up before we got there. I guess festivals aren't their strong suit. Or maybe it is truth in advertising......

  2. So which person on the beach is you?