Nothing draws us GypsyNesters to an event like sticking the word “Fest” on the end of it.
Like moths to flame, kids to candy, cats to a catbox or flies to…. windshields (what did you think we were gonna say?) we’re there in a heartbeat.
We were downright giddy with excitement to hit Washington State just in time for Salmon Fest AND Crab Fest.
As we ventured into the Pacific Northwest, the salmon were running upstream with their insane, unstoppable urge to spawn. The horniest teenager ever has nothing on these swimming sex fiends.
Many Cohos and Chinooks fight their way up Issaquah Creek for their reproductive romp, desperate to return to The Washington State Fish Hatchery from whence they came.
In the Seattle suburb of Issaquah this fascinating annual phenomenon spawns the beloved Salmon Days each autumn. (The 2023 festival is October 7th & 8th.)
As Fests go, this is a winner. For forty years now, hundreds of thousands of people have come to celebrate and sell-a-brate the return of the salmon.
Scores of booths hock the wares of local artists and artisans along the closed off streets of downtown Issaquah. Five stages scattered throughout feature music while humans satisfy their urges through feeding frenzies at the food vendors.
Larger-than-life salmon are toted throughout the festival on specially harnessed volunteers along with banners that say “This ‘spawn’ brought to you by…”
In an odd quirk, almost none of the available vittles contained any salmon whatsoever.
Where were all the salmon steaks, sandwiches, salads or sushi?
All we could find was one booth selling smoked salmon packaged to take home and a couple of cubicles with questionable fried cakes.
What we did find was a fascinating view of the life cycle of these giant fish at the hatchery.
Thousands of salmon, anywhere from three to six feet long, fighting their way up dozens of miles from Puget Sound, in a stream too shallow to cover their backs in many spots.
At the end of the journey they pile up in a traffic jam at a dam waiting to get into the tanks where they began their lives several years before.
The hatchery has been breeding and releasing Coho (King) and Chinook (Silver) salmon since 1936. These days they return a whopping four million fish a year to Issaquah Creek.
Between the salmon in Issaquah and the big Crab Fest in Port Angeles sits Seattle. We figured we ought to take a look.
In keeping with our theme, our first stop was Pike Place Market on the waterfront. This was our kind of place!
There was seafood galore. Pike Place is famous for their vendors and their propensity to toss large fish over the counters to fill an order. A whale of a good time!
Colorful produce booths line the market with free samples of candy-like Washington apples — fresh off the tree — offered every step of the way.
Literally. Our fiber intake went way up that day, we couldn’t help but gorge.
Our never-ending search for weird regional food brought us to PIROSHKY, PIROSHKY… where piroshky rule the day, in fact, piroshky is all they serve.
We had never eaten — much less heard of — a piroshky, so not trying one was out of the question.
A piroshky is the Russian version of a handheld filled pastry, much like pates in the Caribbean or pasties in the U. P. of Michigan. Or possibly an apple “pie” from McDonald’s.
The shop offers over thirty varieties and our favorite, both for its fresh local content and its shape like a fish, was the smoked salmon. Besides, we’d been craving salmon since we got skunked at the Fest.
Just a few blocks walk from the market and a quick trip on the Jetsons- esque, world’s first full sized monorail and we were staring up at the landmark of The Emerald City.
No visit to Seattle is complete without a trip to the top of The Space Needle.
Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the 605 foot tall structure is perhaps the best example of cheesy 1960s space age architecture on the planet.
Better yet, it was the location for the Elvis 1963 cinematic classic It Happened at The World’s Fair.
The view from the observation deck 520 feet in the air is fantastic, but pales in comparison to standing on the very spot where The King portrayed Mike Edwards, Cropduster.
Elvised up and ready to rock, it was time to head out across the Olympic peninsula for The Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival in Port Angeles. (This year, 2023, the festival is October 5th through the 8th.)
On the northern coast of Washington, this is definitely the place to be for any decapod chowing seafood lover.
Not nearly as vast as Salmon Fest, what Crab Fest lacks in size, it more than makes up for in crustacean tastiness.
Wanting to work for our grub, we tried our hands at crabbing in the Grab-A-Crab Derby on the pier.
For $12 each we were handed a little contraption with snares made from loops of fishing line and pointed towards a oversized tank full of crabs. If it were left up to David we would have starved.
He couldn’t snag one of the claw footed, bug eyed buggers to save him but luckily, Veronica snatched them out of the water like an old salt. She snared six of them, so we chose two for dinner and released the others back to the tanks to be snagged again by some other lucky crabber.
For those who don’t want to fish for their supper there is also “The Famous Crab Feed” where a whole Dungeness Crab is served up with corn, coleslaw, music and beer.
Demonstrations of crab cookery from celebrity chefs help to whet the palate.
Shells cracked and bellies filled, we wandered through beautiful downtown Port Angeles.
Nestled between the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, scenic beauty and ginormous trees define the area but a more recent claim to fame dominates the business district… The Twilight books and movies.
Port Angeles is the town where the bloodsucking characters come to shop and hang out.
The local entrepreneurs have embraced it wholeheartedly — we glimpsed Bella’s prom dress at a clothing store and were bombarded with displays for days at the book store, restaurants, gift shops and, of course, the movie theater — all decked out in an endless array of Twilight swag.
We discovered that Port Angelean teenagers have a love/hate relationship with Twilight when we visited the local downtown movie theater.
As we settled in with our popcorn, we were surrounded by young folk — giggling, gossiping and flirting amongst themselves.
As the lights dimmed the preview for New Moon, the second movie in the Twilight series, lit up the screen and the place filled with audible groans.
Teenage angst aside, the Twilight phenomenon has really benefited the area. As one bookseller told us, “Anything that boosts the economy around here without clear-cutting trees — I’m all for it.”
And so are we.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com