River Fest goes GREEN

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Annette Hanson remembers vividly the area locals have come to know at Railroad Bridge Park.


“It wasn’t even a park. It was just a spot,” she recalls, noting that hikers and fishermen knew it well but few others did.


Now the park is the center of the Dungeness River Festival, entering its 14th year this weekend with a riverbed full of activities from singing and dancing, storytelling and river walks,

This year’s theme is “Think Downstream — Go Green!” and puts a spotlight on how locals can help take care of their rivers, including the Dungeness.


“That’s one aspect we’ve always encouraged,” says Hanson, a Dungeness Audubon Society board member ameritus. Hanson was on the board when the river center broke ground in 1992.


“We thought of Railroad Bridge Park as an oasis. It was our first public access on a river, a link for the Olympic Discovery Trail with wheelchair access … and hands-on science classes. It’s a park for all people.”


Festival visitors will get more than a passive education about the area’s natural resources, as participants can make a fish print on a T-shirt, watch salmon migrate upstream, hold a geoduck clam or even walk through a septic system.


“It’s not just a display like a lot of festivals,” Hanson says. “It’s interactive. There are things to do or information about how to do something.”


Some of those lessons target the youngest of festival-goers. Early on during Friday’s festivities, Sequim students in grades 3-5 are shuttled to and from the park.


“That’s a new (statewide) push now, getting youths outdoors,” Hanson says, noting that outdoor activities help youngsters overcome the over-sensitization of today’s technology.


“This gets them outside and playing and learning,” she says.


There are plenty of features for adults, too. On Friday, former center director Bob Boekelheide leads an educational walk along the river. At 2:30 p.m. that day, Jamestown S’Klallam storyteller Elaine Grinnell presents “Drums, Baskets and Stories of the Jamestown S’Klallam People.” At 3 p.m. later that day, Joe Holtrop — district manager of the Clallam Conservation District — leads a natural landscaping walk with appeal to property owners and gardeners alike.


On both days, local, state, federal, tribal and nonprofit entities offer interactive nature exhibits and activities. Many of the exhibits demonstrate energy efficiency, water conservation and clean air practices.


“There will fascinating things to see and do,” says Lyn Muench, Dungeness River Audubon Center board president.


Sounds Waves, the Five Acre School marimba band, kicks off a weekend of music at 11 a.m. on Friday. Aspire Dance and Music Academy provide performance at 1:30 p.m. Friday.


On Saturday, Jamestown drummers and singers lead a traditional welcome ceremony at 10 a.m. and the Young Fiddlers perform at 11 a.m. The River Stage amphitheater hosts Jazzersize and a drumming circle. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Ken Wiersma leads a walk onto the bridge to talk about how early engineers built the historical railroad bridge in 1915.


See a complete schedule online at


Hanson says Sequim’s long-running motto of “Where Water is Wealth” is appropriate when considering the festival.


“We like to support that theme,” she says.


Driftwood sculptors on the bill
In conjunction with the 14th Dungeness River Festival, the Olympic Driftwood Sculptors host the group’s annual show at the Dungeness River Audubon Center from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sept. 28, the festival’s second day, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 29.

Reach Michael Dashiell at
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