FraserFEST 2018 took place from August 5-26, 2018, featuring a total of 33 events: 11 community dinners, 5 raft trips, 6 eco-tours, 7 paddle trips, 3 group bike rides and a 2-day swim! Here are some of the highlights.
Our first FraserFEST event was a community dinner hosted by the Fraser Headwaters Alliance and the Dunster Community Association. Held at the Dunster Community Hall on August 5th, the evening was well attended and featured presentations by the 2018 Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP) participants.
The following Saturday saw us arrive in Quesnel, along with the advancing forest fires! Our hosts, the Baker Creek Enhancement Society, had to bow-out last minute due to the Evacuation Alert that was released that day. Thankfully, our caterer, Jas Sabbarwal of Bliss The Ultimate Grill, graciously invited us to gather at the Grill where we were able to enjoy a delicious meal together in the comfort and safety of his restaurant.
The next evening saw us gathering at the Xatśūll Heritage Village. During the community dinner, Michael ____ from the Xatśūll community talked about how culturally important salmon are to his people – for their sustenance, the ecosystem, ceremony, and for bi-products such as fish oil, as well as being an important trading item with other nations.
The next day featured a rafting trip from Xatśūll to Williams Creek, sponsored by the Pacific Salmon Foundation, hosting 35 rafters in total. They launched from Xatśūll and lunched on Russian Island, which has sadly lost its historic cabin and its trees due to wildfires since we were last there in 2016. After lunch, the raft continued down to Williams Lake for a Fisheries and Oceans fish demonstration with Guy Scharf and the SLLP. The group was then shuttled to the Potato House (Sustainable Community Society), where they toured the facilities, composting site and garden. Afterward, they carried on to the Scout Island Nature Centre for a Lebanese-inspired dinner and presentations from the SLLP participants.
The following Saturday saw the SLLP arrive in Lillooet (August 18), where the Sekw’el’was and the Lillooet Naturalist Society hosted a fabulous salmon community dinner. Carol Orr of the Wilburforce Foundation extended a traditional First Nation’s welcome to the crowd.
The next leg of rafting, from Lillooet to Tuckkwiowhum, was sponsored by the New Pathways to Gold Society. Launching from Lillooet on August 19, the raft followed Keely Weget-Whitney as she swam the Fraser River over two days this year! Dinner was enjoyed at the confluence of the Stein and Fraser rivers, after which we said good-bye to that days’ rafters. The next morning, the raft was filled with First Nation elders and chiefs from nearby communities. They thoroughly enjoyed their day on the mighty waters of the Fraser. The trip finished up at Tuckkwiowhum Heritage Village, with another delicious salmon community dinner, followed by a traditional hoop dancing performance. The evening was capped off with a screening of the powerful short film For the Love of Salmon, featuring Keely’s 2017 swim that we hired award-winning Kelowna filmmaker, Jan Vozenilek, to capture and create. When the lights came back up, there was not a dry eye in the audience.
The Lower Fraser portion began on August 23, with a Voyageur canoe trip from Hope to Cheam. The smoke was still thick, and the Group Bike Ride that was planned to run concurrently with the days’ canoe trip, and which had been such an enjoyable success in 2017, had to be canceled due to the poor air quality.
The following day the smoke started lifting and the Abbotsford Loop bike ride that was planned did take place while the canoe traveled from Cheam to Kwantlen. The paddlers saw several sturgeon, one even breaching near them while they were paddling by Mission! The day culminated with a community dinner at Glen Valley Regional Park, catered by Sto:lo Bannock on the banks of the Fraser River. The event was well attended with several new faces from the community coming out to join us and to show their support. Mary and Misty from the Potato House graced us with their presence. The beautiful evening was also punctuated by a beaver appearing on the banks and then swimming by the group just as the canoe came into view!
The following day we continued on to Kwikwetlem, where we gathered for another outdoor salmon dinner, this time nestled beside the gazebo in the community gardens at Colony Farm Regional Park. Nationally-recognized bat expert, Kiyoshi Takahashi, led the group on the Colony Farm Regional Park Bat Tour.
From Kwikwetlem, on August 26, we paddled to Qayqayt, where we stopped for lunch and a tour of the Fraser River Discovery Centre. We then paddled onto Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park to pick-up new paddlers before continuing on to McDonald Beach Park in Richmond, where the Musqueam Loop Group Bike Ride participants met us for a Bigheart Bannock dinner and a beautiful sunset.
Overall, despite the smoke, FraserFEST 2018 was a great success, with more participants, sponsors and supporters joining us this year!