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Bear Creek Salmon Fest celebrates 15 years

There will be lots of fun stuff to do at the 15th annual Bear Creek Salmon Festival in Ashland.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5, at North Mountain Park, 620 N. Mountain Ave.

It’s free and features live music, how-to spin casting lesson, animal costumes, storytelling in a long salmon-shaped tent, viewing of live salmon in a tank brought by the U.S. Forest Service, making of a salmon-shaped musical shaker, and wading in the creek to study macro-invertebrate aquatic life, such as mayflies and stoneflies. Don’t forget to walk the stone salmon spiral labyrinth — and, of course, do some salmon-spotting in Bear Creek.

Now is the time of spawning of coho, chinook and steelhead, which swim from the Rogue River and spawn as far up Bear Creek as the Neil Creek tributary, says North Mountain Park coordinator Jennifer Aguayo, adding, “There’s definitely a lot more salmon in the last 10 or 15 years. It’s really helped, all the removal of small irrigation dams and other impediments.”

Figgy’s slow food truck will offer non-fast fare that’s local, traditional and healthful for the ecosystem. Music starts with Ashland Taiko, a rousing Japanese-style drum group, designed to bracingly wake everyone up. They are followed by Son Ravello (guitarist-songwriter Michael Paul Caruso), The Brothers Reed, a “familial folk” group, and folk-rockie Montana Soul.

Native Americans from the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics in White City, also known at the VA Dom, will “share songs and welcome the salmon back,” says North Mountain Park manager Libby Van Wyhe. Native Americans will cook salmon over coals in the traditional way and offer everyone smoked samples.

The Middle Rogue Steelheaders will tutor in spin-casting but without hooks or bait. Kids and adults cast with magnet-bait that latches onto metallic fish. Kids can delight themselves by putting on bird, tree, mushroom or fish costumes, provided by the Forest Service.

Native American basketry will be displayed and explained by curator Heather Kleiver of Eugene. CEEN, the Cultural and Ecological Enhancement Network, from Selma will be teaching use of acorns as flour and food. The park’s partners will be tabling and inviting people to volunteer in their environmental programs.

“The purpose of the day,” says Aguayo, “is for us to educate our community and connect them with the beautiful, fascinating and diverse environment of our watershed and celebrate the return of the salmon.”

The event is alcohol-free, pet-free and admission-free. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottle or cup to make the festival a zero-waste event.

To learn more, visit BearCreekSalmonFestival.net or call the North Mountain Park Nature Center at 541-488-6606.

The salmon spiral labyrinth at the Bear Creek Salmon Festival. Mail Tribune file photo