Just 61 miles north of Olympia, the town of Brinnon perches on the west side of the Hood Canal. The quaint town of less than 1,000 people is often passed by visitors traveling Highway 101 on their way to the Olympic National Forest, but those who stop in during Memorial Day Weekend get to experience a long-standing tradition for this small community. Pull over to participate in the 25th Annual Hood Canal Shrimpfest!
“The big thing is the shrimp,” explains festival volunteer Tricia Schilperoort. “It’s really the big draw of the event.” The water here is rich with the star of this event, the Hood Canal spot shrimp. These shrimp have helped to sustain the life living near the canal for decades and the festival highlights their historical importance to the area. The prep work that goes into getting enough shrimp ready to eat takes two days of teamwork, and it’s well worth the effort to enjoy the delicious fruits of their labor.
With nearly 7,000 visitors to this event each year, vendors have to come prepared to feed the large crowds. “The shrimp is the focus, but our vendors always bring a variety of seafood,” says Schilperoort. This food fair brings in chefs from all over the canal for visitors to experience different versions of the seafood found on the canal. This includes the shrimp along with local clams, oysters, crab, and freshly caught fish. During Memorial Day Weekend, the tides will cooperate for those interested in catching their own seafood to do a local dig with an updated shellfish license.
What started in 1993 as a way to showcase the locally caught seafood of the canal has quickly become a family-friendly event to celebrate all aspects of life in Brinnon. “The focus is the shrimp of course with local vendors making different versions of seafood,” describes Schilperoort, “But there is more to do for everyone! We will have belt sander races, a bouncy house, and arts and crafts booths. We are really advocating for family fun at this year’s event.”
The belt sander races are unique events that allow drivers of the power tools to drag race down parallel wooden channels. Also expect a dedicated kid zone, guaranteeing that all ages of attendees will have a great time celebrating the shrimp.
Along with the view, activities, and delicious shrimp, there will also be live bands providing the soundtrack to the event. “There are lots of new bands this year to check out,” says Schilperoort. One of the featured artists, Dave Calhoun is the state’s only Jimmy Buffet tribute performer. His tropical rock vibes will bring the summer heat to the shores of the canal. Also on the weekend’s performance list are swing, country-rock revival band Birch Periera & The Gin Joints, and American Idol contestant and folk rocker, Kalan Wolfe.
The cost for this year’s festival is $5 for anyone over the age of 12 years old. However, active military members and veterans with an ID are permitted into the gates free of charge. It may be worth the small cost of admission as the funds are given to a worthy cause. “All of the proceeds from the festival go locally to the school that is here in Brinnon and the fire department. The money is put right back into our community.”
The shrimp of the canal provides for the community and this celebration focuses on celebrating this incredible resource. It’s a cycle of life and community that makes Brinnon such a special place along the beautiful Hood Canal.