Pilot story and photos

by Bill Schlichting

In a little more than a month an idea for a new festival became a reality last weekend at the Port of Brookings Harbor boardwalk.

The Wild Rivers Salmon Festival and Derby attracted 114 fishermen who went out to the ocean to see who could catch the largest salmon.

Friday, Aug. 29, was the day most of the 91 fish were landed, thanks to calm seas. That was the day the competitors caught 59 fish, among them the biggest.

Arthur Selby took home the $1,000 first-place prize for landing the largest fish, which weighed 34 pounds, 4 ounces. The $750 second-place award went to Owen Papworth who landed a 30 pound, 4 ounce salmon. Frank Foster was awarded third place and $250 for catching a 29 pound, 14 ounce fish.

A Blind Bogey award was issued to Fran Gower for her salmon. Prior to weighing the fish, judges chose a weight amount. The person who came closest to this amount would win the $100 prize, said organizer Jim Relaford. The preselected weight was 14 pounds, 6 ounces. Gowers fish was right on the oney. All the winners were from Brookings.

Fishermen registered for the derby from Alaska and Southern California, Relaford said. Many came from the Rogue Valley.

Rough seas on Saturday and Sunday yielded fewer fish, with only 11 caught on Sunday.

Although the catch was low, there were plenty of people on hand to take part in a salmon dinner at the culmination of the festival.

Relaford said 171 dinner tickets were sold. People waited in a long line while salmon was barbecued over a charcoal fire. It was slow at first because there was only one grill, but a second one was brought so more fish could be barbecued at a time.

Relaford said they will plan on having more food and barbecue grills next year.

After Brookings City Manager Leroy Blodgett came up with the idea for the festival, he contacted Port of Brookings Harbor Executive Director Russ Crabtree, Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Les Cohen and Relaford. The four got together to plan the event.

Relaford said they plan to meet again sometime next week to discuss what needs to be espanded and what didn't work. One sign of success was that income exceeded expenses by about $500.

Many people who attended or operated the dozen booths said they were impressed with how well the event went for its first time. Many were optimistic that the festival has a lot of potential. Relaford agreed.

Vendor booths offered handcrafts, woodwork, myrtlewood gifts, festival T-shirts and hats, and more.

One of the booths was operated by Brookings resident Louise Shaw. Items included woodwork by her husband, Randy Shaw, jewelry made by her 82-year-old mother Helen Wigginton and thunder eggs made by her friend Andy Andrews.

Shaw said she has been participating in festivals for 12 years and was among those who saw potential in continuing the event.

The salmon barbecue was only during the final hours of the festival but, for the two-and-a-half days prior, people could eat Hawaiian-style Japanese food from Malia's Kitchen, have a sausage dog from Harbor Meats or a variety of hot dogs from Happy's Hot Dogs. The owners of the new business rolled their cart to a prominent location in the line of booths.

One restaurant, Hungry Clam, also got involved in the festival by opening its doors on Sunday, when it is usually closed.

If all that was wanted was a snack, Bear Kountry Kettle Korn provided samples of its magic mushroom popcorn in either regular or Snickerdoodle flavors.

Ed Damon said he and his wife Pat retired in January and decided to travel. Less than three months ago the Central Point couple decided to get into the popcorn business. They have been at festivals on the entire Oregon coast all summer, he said.

Entertainment was provided by the Port of Brookings Harbor's own disc jockey Brian Bullock.

The longtime deejay said he volunteered to spin discs when he was younger and he's been doing it since. Bullock assists Crabtree at the port office.

Mikey Quale was on hand to operate the karaoke machine, giving many people the opportunity to show how well they can sing.

Among the younger people, a rock climbing wall was popular.

Mike and Debbie Shuford, owners of Port Sport at the boardwalk, purchased the wall about three months ago.

The apparatus is designed so three people can climb simultaneously. The center section was designed with a higher degree of difficulty. A $20 bill was attached at the top. Few people were able to come close, but the prize was finally claimed by an older, more skilled climber.