The town of Coupeville welcomed Coast Salish canoe racers this weekend at the Penn Cove Water Festival.
Festival President Gary Piazzon said this year’s festival, the first one since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to feature the traditional canoe races, was a huge hit. Vendors on Front Street reported that this year’s festival was the most successful they’ve had in a decade, he said.
“All in all, it went smashingly,” Piazzon said.
Between musical and storytelling performances, vendors and the races, there was a lot for downtown visitors to enjoy May 13. The canoe races proceeded smoothly and safely, despite low tides and three capsizing incidents, with a few sandals being the only casualties, according to Piazzon.
The festival president said that in Coast Salish culture, the canoe races are comparable to football in the U.S., or hockey in Canada. The Penn Cove Water Festival is the only venue on the race circuit that isn’t on a Native American reservation, Piazzon said.
He added that festival and city of Langley officials have floated the idea of expanding the festival to a two-day event, in which a second series of races would take place on South Whidbey the Sunday following the Penn Cove Water Festival, which typically happens on a Saturday.
Next year’s festival is planned for May 18, 2024.