Kristin and I spent much of Saturday running errands. Fun stuff like picking up a ticket from the airport; collecting the pants I had being hemmed at the oddly-named Lululemon Athletica shop; and going to Macy's so Kristin could use the gift card she's been carrying around for a year. We eventually made our way across the lake to Seattle to wander around REI for a bit and noticed the road was roped off for what a flimsy 8.5 x 11 sign said was an "Ethnic Festival". So after strolling through REI we headed down the road to the festival.
Our first sign that something was a little off was that the rope was strung across the street at waist level and there appeared no way to enter. The second more obvious indication of something askew (one we didn't notice until later) was that there was nobody walking around. We ducked under the rope and continued towards the large white tents in the distance. The first one was empty. The second tent was much larger and had several tables under it. We saw neither food nor crafts. Not even a game of Bingo. Instead we saw a few seniors sitting around, dressed to the nines, staring off into the distance. I promptly grabbed Kristin's hand, turned 180-degrees and beat feet back to the car. I was not going to risk being stuck in a sympathy conversation.
We drove back across the lake and decided to stop at the Salmon Days festival in Issaquah. We've always avoided this festival because of the notoriously large crowds and because we're not much into fairs anyway. But it was late in the day and Kristin was jonesing for an elephant ear. What we didn't realize about Salmon Days is that the festival takes place along the little Issaquah Creek where thousands upon thousands of giant Chinook Salmon return every October. We're talking 15-pound fish everywhere you look leaping over one another, swimming frantically against the current, and spawning right before our very eyes.
We strolled past the first few booths to the fish hatchery and started walking around. A small spillway prevents the salmon from continuing up the creek and the ladders leading into the tanks were currently closed so the fish were forced to hurl themselves against the dam in feeble attempts to clear the unscalable barrier. They would leap onto the spillway and flap around with all their might like a child trying to climb an uphill waterslide against a firehose. It was hopeless. Their efforts were pointless. And the longer I stood there watching this display of futile athleticism, the more ashamed I felt. I felt like I was back in Pitt County, North Carolina paying 50 cents to see the freaks at the county fair.
Fortunately the volunteers were there to liven things up. The hatchery stationed "fish docents" every few feet to answer your questions and fortunately for those of us looking for some comic relief, these guys didn't have a filter between their brain and their mouth. Despite the many kids standing around with their parents listening to the mini-lectures, they had no problem saying how many fish would be "offed" to prevent overcrowding upsteam. A second docent, when asked about the spawning process, pulled a large hook blade out of his pocket and proceeded to mime the way in which the female salmon are relieved of their eggs. The father who asked was clutching his young daughter and appeared mildly horrified. Even I thought it was a little gruesome. Fortunately, a massive chinook hurled itself out of the water of the glass-walled tank we were standing in front of and almost cleared the outstretched barrier. The distraction was our chance to back away from bladed hook man quietly.
We continued down the road past the dozens of craft booths where bored artisans hawked their wares. Having worked a booth of my own at a different festival a few years ago, I know from first-hand experience how annoying it is to have people fawn over your wares and then walk away empty handed. We didn't buy much, but one of the booths we stopped at was that of a local musician, Gary Jess. Gary is an incredible pianist and woodwind musician and had over a dozen different recordings available. One of his albums was apparently the best-selling independent-recorded album for 5 years running. Kristin wanted some new easy listening background music to study to and he had a buy 3 get 1 free deal on his cds, so we stocked up. We didn't buy anything else, but I was very impressed by the photography on display by Ben Babusis.
The rain started to come down a bit more heavily as we continued through the festival, but we were hungry and Kristin really wanted an elephant ear. We walked through the entire "Foods of the World" section and actually uttered a sentence I never thought I'd say: "That sounds good, but we already ate Vietnamese today. I think I might get the goulash instead." I actually ended up with a cajun salmon sandwich. And yes, I do notice the irony in me eating a salmon sandwich not long after feeling sorry for their upstream plight.
But it was damn tasty...