Water Festival splashed with fun

Four-year-old Connor McCormick and his brother, seven-year-old Jacob, look at one of many educational activities available for children during the festival. - Nathan Whalen
Four-year-old Connor McCormick and his brother, seven-year-old Jacob, look at one of many educational activities available for children during the festival.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen

While some people were enjoying elephant ears, watching the canoe races or browsing through the various crafts and food booths at Penn Cove Water Festival Saturday, others reveled in the fountain of information about the work being done to preserve the environment.

Meandering along historic Front Street in downtown Coupeville, people learned the work of the Marine Resources Committee, the Spartina Grass Project by middle school students and the Waste Wise Program.

Janet Hall of Waste Wise said that parents learned about the program through their children.

“We were part of the treasure hunt for kids and it brings in the adults so it’s a double whammy,” Hall said. Waste Wise is an effort by Island County and WSU to help people reduce waste while enhancing the environment.

Festival coordinator Roxallanne Medley pointed out that the festival focuses on education.

One educational opportunity was the Langley Explorer which took people for a 45-minute naturalist tour of the waters around Penn Cove.

“It gave people a chance to get on the water and really see,” Medley said.

Learning Connections teacher Liz Sherman said that her students used the festival for a community service project. Her students built bird houses that were available at the festival through a silent auction.

She added her students will use the money to make signs which she hopes will be posted throughout Coupeville and along trails of Central Whidbey to educate people on the types of birds that are common on the island.

Island County Historical Museum brought in a Quinault ambassador, Harvest Moon, to demonstrate native basket weaving.

While some came to learn, others came to peruse the arts and crafts, ranging from jewelry to miniature lighthouses, which were available for purchase.

Rob Holden, who produces custom-made lighthouses in Canada, said he would sell out of the $295 pieces available Saturday. He planned to spend the next two weeks replenishing his stock.

But the Native American canoe races were one of the most prominent events of the festival.

Native Americans from as far away as Canada came to compete in a variety of races ranging from one-person to 11-person.

Pat Cozine, volunteer, said the races are a family event for the competitors.

She pointed out that in the women’s one-person race, the champion and third-place winner were mother and daughter paddling canoes that have long been in the family.

“It’s like a dynasty,” Cozine said.

Twenty-five-year-old Rose Greene from Chilliwack, B.C., who won the mixed-doubles race with her partner, Victor Harry, has been racing canoes for 17 years. After racing in Penn Cove, they headed up to Lummi Island and raced again Sunday.

While folks watched the races, walked through the festival and basked in the beautiful May sunshine, live music filled the air. Listeners enjoyed styles such as Irish and folk music and local phenoms the Shifty Sailors made an appearance.

That didn’t stop other musicians from being heard.

Mbili Tissot, a native of Kenya, heard of the water festival that day and brought out his chuka and performed on the sidewalk, adding a bit more diversity to the annual festival.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynews or 675-6611.

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