Keex' Kwaan dancers and other Kake residents welcome the catamaran arriving from Juneau.
Story last updated at 7/29/2009 - 11:18 am
"You come once, you'll never miss it again," Matthew Bell told me last week about the Kake Dog Salmon Festival.
Now that I've finally attended the festival, I have to say he's right. It's going to be a long year's wait for the next one to roll around.
The Kake Dog Salmon Festival began as a community potluck celebrating the one-millionth pound of salmon processed at the local plant. Now, visitors come from across the region and around the world to join in the fun.
Catamarans brought visitors from Sitka and Juneau for a day trip. As our boat approached Kake, a traditional canoe came out to great us, a drum beat keeping time for the strokes of the paddles. Keex' Kwaan dancers welcomed us in song. As we disembarked, the dock was lined with greeters, who led us to the main square where the festivities were about to begin.
In the shadow of the world's tallest totem pole, community members manned booths selling traditional foods - bags of black seaweed and smoked salmon, jars of seal oil and pickled octopus. DJ Denton Pearson from Sitka kept the oldies flowing as Matthew Bell, the festival's emcee since its beginning 15 years ago, somehow managed to find time to talk to everyone while still keeping announcements rolling on the microphone.
Old friends were greeted, a 99th birthday was celebrated, veterans were honored. Then the competitions began. Nobody is too old or two young to join in the festival events - even one-year-olds got to participate in foot races. Everyone gathered round to watch the unique competitions, ranging from bubble gum chewing to fish filleting contests and herring tosses. After the Challenge of the Chums canoe race, a few brave competitors boarded a much less stable watercraft for the fish tote races - amazingly, nobody fell in, despite quite a few attempts to splash the competition.
As the afternoon drew to a close, the farewell was as warm as the welcome. Once again, the canoe paddled out to see the catamarans off. It's not easy to get to know a town in five hours, but it's hard to imagine spending a better five hours in a new place than at Kake's Dog Salmon Festival.
Now, we've got a year to practice our fish filleting skills!