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Canoeists flock to Penn Cove Water Festival

Whidbey Island residents Mark and Jenn Fuentes sit with Shooty, Quiche, and Emily as they enjoy a performance at the Penn Cove Water Festival  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Whidbey Island residents Mark and Jenn Fuentes sit with Shooty, Quiche, and Emily as they enjoy a performance at the Penn Cove Water Festival
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

The torrential downpour that drenched the area with record rainfall Saturday generally waited until a celebration of Whidbey’s Native American heritage wrapped up.

It appears a record number of canoeists from Native American tribes spanning the Puget Sound region and British Columbia participated in the canoe races that started at noon and continued throughout the afternoon. The races are always a highlight of the Penn Cove Water Festival.

The single-man canoe races, for example, had 25 participants, the most organizers have seen at the Coupeville event. Sixteen canoe clubs had racers competing Saturday. In addition the six-woman canoe races had nine teams participating, which was also a record.

“We really lucked out that the rain held out until the end,” said Susan Berta, a festival organizer.

Saturday was the modern Water Festival’s 20th anniversary. Its origins date back to the ‘20s. A variety of Native American performances took place on historic Front Street. Swil Kanim, Peter Ali and the Tsimshian Haayuuk Dancers are always crowd pleasers.

Berta noted the dancing troupe performed an honor dance for the organizers near the festival’s end.

A popular feature on Front Street was changed Saturday. The venerable salmon wheel created by Roger Perdue was moved to the museum from its location near the Coupeville Wharf. In its place is a whale wheel, also a Perdue design, carved by a group of Whidbey woodworkers.

Several Native American storytellers spoke Saturday at the museum and children enjoyed such activities as constructing model boats in an activity tent located near the museum.

Following the festival, Coupeville Town Council members cooked dinner for the canoe race participants.

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