Op-Ed

It was a celebration of the bounty of the sea, those who make their living on the water

Lange Solberg of the Working Waterfront Coalition talks about commercial fishing while giving a tour on Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham in 2016. Bellingham’s third annual SeaFeast is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 21-22, 2018.
Lange Solberg of the Working Waterfront Coalition talks about commercial fishing while giving a tour on Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham in 2016. Bellingham’s third annual SeaFeast is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 21-22, 2018. The Bellingham Herald file

Bellingham’s second annual SeaFeast nearly doubled in size this year with over 10,000 people attending the showcase event on the downtown waterfront to celebrate our community’s maritime heritage.

People traveled from around the state to enjoy a salmon-grilling contest, live music, a Coast Guard rescue-at-sea demonstration, the legendary FisherPoets, a maritime themed art walk, a seaside beer garden, an oyster shucking competition, plenty of local seafood, harbor boat tours and much more. Bellingham SeaFeast gained momentum in its second year of existence with more local businesses participating, more events for people to enjoy and more people attending.

The growing popularity of SeaFeast is exactly what the City of Bellingham envisioned when it sought proposals to establish a new signature event for our community to encourage commerce, maximize national and regional exposure and to enhance the existing quality of life for residents.

The success of SeaFeast is no surprise given the overwhelming support from the individuals and families who make up the maritime and commercial fishing industry in Whatcom County. According to a report recently published by Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research, 6,033 jobs are created or supported by the marine trades representing seven percent of Whatcom County’s total workforce.

When you talk to the people employed in our local marine trades, you find out quickly their livelihood is much more than just a job – it is their identity and their way of life. As much as we appreciate the family-wage jobs and fresh seafood this industry provides, we are even more grateful for the enthusiasm and willingness of those working on the water to share their culture and bring to life our heritage as residents of a maritime community. Bellingham SeaFeast is not only a celebration of the bounty that lies within the Salish Sea, but it is also an opportunity to recognize the fishermen, the boat builders, the seafood processors and the many more individuals who make their living on the water.

Bellingham is defined by our waterfront and Bellingham SeaFeast represents everything positive about our corner of the Pacific Northwest – to eat, play and explore the abundance of our Salish Sea. Our waterfront has undergone many changes in recent years, and we have more to look forward to in the coming year. Within a month, construction will begin on new roads bring access to the downtown waterfront, Waypoint Park, waterfront trails, a beach and industrial art.

As downtown Bellingham connects to the water, SeaFeast provides an opportunity to help bring our reclaimed waterfront to life with food, music, art, poetry and more. Bellingham’s third annual SeaFeast is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 21-22, 2018. By the time this event comes around, the historic Granary Building will be open to the public with new restaurants and businesses overlooking, and possibly hosting, SeaFeast events.

Much the same as the Pike Place Fish Market has become world famous for their tradition of fishmongers throwing fish, we hope Bellingham SeaFeast becomes an event that people will travel from far and wide to experience first-hand as they slurp oysters, listen to FisherPoets and immerse themselves in the sights and sounds and a true maritime community.

Kelli Linville is mayor of Bellingham, Rob Fix is the executive director at the Port of Bellingham.

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