The Oregonian, A&E Section
October 10, 2003
By Ted Mahar
Catch the Salmon Festival this weekend
The fish will be so happy to see you at the 20th annual Salmon Festival at Oxbow Regional Park that they will shake hands with you as you come in.
"We'll be right there at the entrance to the festival, passing out passports, giving directions and teaching the salmon handshake," said Wisteria Loeffler, coordinator of the Salmon Nation Welcome Center. "I can't really tell you how to do the handshake, but some nice people in salmon costumes will show you just how it's done."
The Saturday-Sunday festival is a watershed event in many ways. For one, the chinook are returning to the Sandy River this fall in greater numbers than they have in many years. Observing the fish up close with expert commentators is a major element of the event. For another, those who have attended the festival before will see many new attractions, including the Salmon Nation Welcome Center operated by the environmental group Ecotrust.
"The passport includes a map of the festival and a schedule of events and activities, including all entertainment," Loeffler said. "It also has a set of questions that you can get answered in the various information booths. When you get all the answers, you show your passport and get a prize."
Also new this year is Wy-kan-ush-pum Village, presented by Columbia region tribes to show how indigenous people lived, dressed, worked and ate before Lewis and Clark trekked through. (It's pronounced wy-KAN-ush-pum.) "Wy-kan-ush-pum means 'salmon nation,' which is a very big part of the country, really from Canada almost to Mexico," said Wy-kan-ush-pum director Jeremy FiveCrows. "The salmon was central to the culture and daily life of the whole region for centuries, and it is still a vital part of our identity."
Like the salmon, activities in Wy-kan-ush-pum Village can be enjoyed at close range. "You can see how native peoples spent their day," FiveCrows said. "Dancers will be in authentic clothing that you can try on. You can get right next to the Nez Perce appaloosas. People who are bow-stringing or flint-knapping will let you try it. You can bang a drum."
The village will have 10 to 12 tepees. Participants are from the Umatilla Tribe, the Warm Springs Tribe, the Yakama Tribe and FiveCrows' tribe, the Nez Perce. "The village is not like a powwow, where you just sit and watch," FiveCrows said. "You walk through the village at your own pace, talk to the people, get a feel for what they are doing."
This includes cooking salmon in various ways. "It honors the salmon to eat them," FiveCrows said. "That is why they are so vital to the culture. You can see different ways that salmon is prepared and get little samples. Of course, for the whole meal with all the trimmings, you have to go to the food court." As always, a center of the festival is the salmon barbecue, but that is different this year as well.
"The Oregon Zoo is operating the food court this year," said Ron Klein, spokesman for Metro Regional Parks and Greenspaces. "We offer what we always have, an outstanding salmon barbecue, but with much more variety than before. Salmon will be served in more diverse ways, including Asian. There will be a children's menu and just more variety than before."
And, Klein emphasizes, all fish will be wild caught. "There will be no pen-raised fish," he said. "There will be no growth hormones, coloring agents or other additives. We want to show that you can save salmon and eat them, too. We encourage people to find out where the salmon they eat comes from, both in restaurants and stores. Come to the festival, and you can learn what to ask and why you should ask it."