SEQUIM — A lot has changed in the world and around Sequim’s waterways since the most recent Dungeness River Festival was held in 2019. The event has been on hiatus since, following bridge construction, river restoration efforts and COVID-19 health protocols.
However, the free, one-day event returns for its 22nd year from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, with several local agencies and groups focused on the river and its impact on the region.
Powell Jones, director of the Dungeness River Nature Center, said this is truly the first available year since 2019 to host the festival.
“We always wanted to bring it back,” he said. “For (the center’s board of directors) it was at the top of the list … with community outreach, education about the river, it checks all the boxes.”
Jones adds that the festival not only connects people to the river but with their own stories.
“It helps build reciprocity for the river,” he said. “Anthropomorphizing it does work to connect people, too.”
The Dungeness River Nature Center sees a plethora of visitors daily, Jones said, but the festival also helps promote the other agencies working hard to help the river and nearby ecosystems too.
At least 18 organizations will be on hand with booths and activities, including the U.S. Forest Service, Peninsula Trails Coalition, Back Country Horsemen, North Olympic Land Trust and others.
This year also celebrates the 35th anniversary of the Dungeness River Management Team, made up of staffers/leaders from many of the exhibitors, Jones said.
“There’s a lot of people working for a common goal,” Jones said.
With a new configuration in the Railroad Bridge Park, Jones anticipates the festival’s layout will be less spread out compared to years past.
As is tradition, area students in grades 3-5 travel to the festival, along with homeschool, Five Acre School and potentially several other area schools’ students. Five Acre’s marimba band will be performing.
Traditionally third-, fourth- and fifth-graders attend from local schools, but in Sequim School District they’ll only be coming from Helen Haller Elementary this year, which hosts those grades following an elementary school reconfiguration, Jones said.
“We aim (programming for) those grades, but there’s something to learn at every age,” he said.
For more information about the River Festival and Dungeness River Nature Center, 1943 W. Hendrickson Road, visit dungenessrivercenter.org or call 360-681-4076.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.