PORT TOWNSEND — The annual Port Townsend Orca Festival at the Fort Worden beaches and Marine Science Center promises fun and free education, exploration and celebration by the sea from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
The free festival is an annual tradition “celebrating the relationships of iconic species of the Salish Sea, the orca and the salmon, and deepening our relationship and responsibility to them,” according to a news release.
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is in Fort Worden State Park. Free parking will be available at the Fort Worden parade grounds but Discovery passes will be required for parking in the beach area.
Admission to the science center will be free during the festival.
Featured speakers include Stephanie Solien, chair of the governor’s Orca Recovery Task Force; Erin Ashe, orca researcher with Seattle-based, Oceans Initiative; Lucas Hall, project coordinator for Long Live the Kings; and Olivia Vito and Kory Kirby of North Olympic Salmon Coalition.
A festival awards ceremony at 2 p.m. will honor the winners of the Rat Island Regatta and J Pod Scavenger Hunt, as well as Gov. Jay Inslee for his long-term dedication and support of the southern resident orcas. Solien will accept on his behalf as Inslee will not be present.
This will be followed by a song and dance by the North Olympic Orca Pod and a celebration of Finn the Salmon’s 30th anniversary.
This year’s award ceremony will be one for the history books. Prior to and following the ceremony, famed ska/rock band Locust Street Taxi will perform and Puget Sound Express will offer free boat tours of Port Townsend Bay on the Red Head at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., leaving from the pier. The trips will be available on a first come, first serve basis.
The skeleton of Hope, a transient female orca that beached and died locally in 2002, hangs in the shore building of the Marine Science Center and is one of only a few fully articulated orca skeletons in the world.
While working with scientists researching her death and preparing her skeleton for display, scientists learned many things about the community of orcas living along the Olympic Peninsula coast.
The exhibit, Learning from Orcas: The Story of Hope, highlights her story and lessons learned from these events.
Tours of Hope will take place in the center’s Natural History Exhibit hourly starting at 1 p.m. and ending at 4 p.m.
Also on display for the month of June is an exhibit of art work by 50 Port Townsend High School students to celebrate Orca Month.
Starting at 11 a.m. at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center building, participants will be invited to get to know the largest pod of southern resident orcas by following clues and collecting trading cards in the J Pod Scavenger Hunt.
All receive small prize
All participants who complete the scavenger hunt will receive a small prize and be entered into a raffle drawing to win free whale watching tours from Puget Sound Express and a variety of other prizes. Participants must be 15 or younger.
The Canteen beachside restaurant and grocery will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with food available for purchase.
For more details, go to www.ptorcafest.com.
Many events are scheduled throughout the day:
• 9 a.m. — Rat Island Regatta early start.
• 10 a.m. — Rat Island Regatta standard start.
• 11 a.m. — J Pod Scavenger Hunt registration opens.
• 11 a.m. — Featured speakers.
• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Salmon and orca hat making with North Olympic Salmon Coalition.
• 1 p.m. — Locust Street Taxi – on the Pier.
• 2 p.m. — Award ceremony on the Pier.
• 2:30 p.m. — Locust Street Taxi.
• 3 p.m. — Puget Sound Express free boat tour.
• 4 p.m. — Puget Sound Express free boat tour.
Throughout the day:
• Tide pool touch tanks and aquarium on the pier.
• Learning From Orcas exhibit in center building.
• Featured art exhibit by Port Townsend High School students.
• 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m. — Tours of Hope, a fully articulated orca skeleton.
• 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Listen to orcas via the Hydrophone Listening Network.
• 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Fin the salmon on display.
• All day: beach party and tug of war on the beach.