Pieces of king salmon, skewered with alder wood sticks and seasoned with salt and pepper, stood at the ready, their pink tones waiting to be darkened by an open flame. A traditional Lummi BBQ was set up at the Squalicum Harbor, surrounded by many other local seafood sellers.
Oct. 14 and 15 saw thousands of Whatcom locals and tourists visit the harbor, indulging in local seafood and basking in the maritime culture. SeaFeast is an annual festival hoping to educate the public on the benefits of seafood and the industries that surround it, said Program Director Kevin Coleman.
The event included a food court, expo hall with art and educational resources, activities like building your own boat and identifying fishes and a stage that saw performers such as the Good Time Girls, Lummi Nation Blackhawk Singers and Dancers, Acid Tongue and more.
This was the seventh year of SeaFeast and Coleman's second time heading the operation.
“There are a lot of people who don't know a lot about seafood, in general,” Coleman said.
He hopes people can shed their intimidation of cooking seafood and learn how to prepare different varieties of this affordable, equitable and nutritious source of protein.
After a heart attack in 2021, Coleman changed his diet and discovered the benefits seafood can have to your heart, kidneys and more.
“What you put in is what you get out,” he said.
The Washington State Department of Health suggests eating fish at least twice a week to maintain a healthy diet and reduce the risk of heart attack.
SeaFeast is a free event; the only tickets sold are those to the San Juan Cruise Boat Ride, the All American Marine Tour and Keep It Simple Seafood Cooking Demos.
“Events like this are so important for heritage tourism,” said Lindsey Gerhard, community outreach and destination development manager for Visit Bellingham.
Washington Sea Grant had a table covered with fish on ice. Visitors approached the table, testing their fish-identifying knowledge.
“The more we know our fish the less afraid we are to go get it, try it and eat it,” said Brandii O’Reagan, who ran the activity.
O’Reagan puts an emphasis on knowledge of different salmon species because they are a common catch and are frequently sold whole. You can tell salmon species apart most easily by their tails, she said.
Ryan Henry Ward, an artist known as Henry, stood next to his booth, painting a mythical creature which he calls the Quadrapus. Coleman invited Henry to the festival to sell affordable pieces for the visitors.
Western Washington University professor Brian Morgans and friend Tanya Walls purchased a painting of a Sasquatch holding a piece of pie.
“[I’m] blessed to live in this area with views like this and wonderful people,” Morgans said.
SeaFeast is a non-profit, but festivals cost a lot to put on, Coleman said.
Whatcom County has a tourism grant that nonprofits and businesses can apply for to support events that bring tourism into the county, Gerhard said. SeaFeast also sells merchandise and has sponsors to support the event.
Each year, Gerhard and Visit Bellingham work with the SeaFeast team to promote the event. Next year, SeaFeast will be held on Oct. 5 and 6. Oct 3 will see their second annual Seafeast JAZZ celebration at Aslan Depot.
Coleman hopes to expand SeaFeast's work to host year-round activities including promoting healthy eating, feeding communities, educating about nutrition and fish-focused diets and more, Gerhard said.
Jemma Alexander (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a senior majoring in journalism new/ed and minoring in Arab American studies. When she's not doing homework, Jemma is likely working, talking loudly over movies with her roommates or dancing ’till she drops. You can reach her at email@example.com.