By Lynn West
The 26th annual Nisqually Watershed Festival, at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, is a wonderful opportunity to wander the refuge, see exhibits, play games, take a field trip, eat salmon, and even sing a bit! This yearly event, scheduled for September 26, is free and activities abound for every member of the family.
Nisqually Park Ranger Michael Schramm, who is the volunteer coordinator of the event, hopes to hear folks departing on the shuttle busses after a day at the Festival say, “I had a great time, and I learned something!” Hard to believe anyone could say otherwise with the many enjoyable options at hand.
Two years ago, my husband and I meandered through the refuge and enjoyed the inside exhibits and the wonderful salmon lunch with out of town guests. Last year with our eight grandchildren and their parents, we had a much different experience. We have yet to see and do everything at the festival. Maybe this year we will take the field trip out to the Nisqually Reach to see the seining and learn about all the sea creatures.
Fin, the giant salmon, and Drain Dare are magnets for the younger set. The children (and many parents too!) climb in the giant fish, travel its length to reach the slide at the rear. On the way, they learn about the salmon cycle through beautifully painted murals. I hear Fin is going to a different festival this year, but Schramm is hoping one of Fin’s cousins will show up. Adventurous children also line up for the Drain Dare, once they know they can climb down a storm drain and learn about the water cycle.
The Red Salmon Tent always is a favorite for kids who enjoy dressing up as critters, listening to great storytellers, and wandering through the refuge in a critter parade. Another dress up event, Dress Like a Refuge Manager, offers young folks the opportunity to try on actual Fish and Wildlife uniforms.
Salmon season is here, so have a seat and paint a wooden salmon to make a paper print or paint a pattern on a real salmon to imprint on a t-shirt. Recreate the lifecycle of salmon in beads at the Salmon Life Cycle station. Finally, try your luck at the Salmon Life Cycle Bean Bag Toss.
The Junior Duck Stamp drawing activity is a must. Participants can win an hourly prize, and all drawings will automatically be entered into the national competition next March.
Nisqually Idol is a new event. Between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m., anyone under age 18, can share their musical talent. Pre-register on the Nisqually River Council website and perform a song with a nature and/or community theme. A panel of judges will be awarding cash prizes.
If you are more for observing than doing, like our out of town guests were, spend some time at the Refuge’s fully restored eagle’s nest or check out the Marvelous Microscope tables. Marion Bailey, wildlife biologist at the Refuge, will share her collection of insects from around the world in an all-new “Insect Extravaganza.”
Salmon isn’t just for projects at the Festival, but for eating, too. The Nisqually Tribe will be offering delicious wild caught salmon lunches with all the trimmings. You won’t need directions to the eating area as the smell of baking salmon will lead you there. Food and drink are offered at the festival for a charge; however, everything else is free. Picnic tables are always available over by the twin barns if you wish to bring your own lunch.
Hearing about the variety of events and activities offered at the Festival, a few themes emerge. Schramm told me, “The festival is the combined work of all the cultural, environmental, creative and economic organizations who make the Nisqually Watershed operate.” Listed at the bottom of the event flyer are all of the organizations that sponsor this festive day. Nine of the organizations have Nisqually in their title: Land Trust, River Council, River Education Project, River Foundation, Stream Stewards, Sustainable, Reach Nature Center, Friends of, and of course, the Tribe. Additional sponsors are Washington State Department of Ecology, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Refuge System and Tacoma Power.
Morgan Greene, Program Coordinator of the Nisqually River Council and member of the planning committee for the Festival, summed up, “The Nisqually Watershed Festival has continued and grown over the past 26 years because it celebrates the people and animals that reside here and is a wonderful resource for our entire community.”
Rain or shine the festival is on for September 26 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The forecast is for 66 degrees and mostly sunny, so come out and join the celebration.
Even the shuttle service from River Ridge High School is offered at no cost. Park your car at River Ridge, 350 River Ridge Dr. in Lacey, and ride the bus to the festival as parking for the number of participants is too limited at the refuge.
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