“A wish upon a River” could be a story book opening for this year’s Dungeness River Festival.
Organizers for the annual event celebrating 20 years on Thursday-Friday, Sept. 27-28, ask visitors at the Dungeness River Railroad Bridge Park to share their wishes for the river.
Powell Jones, executive director of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, said each booth will share its group’s wish for the river for the next 20-plus years.
“Then (community members) can formulate their own vision and go make their own wish,” Jones said.
“Hopefully, what we see is a pattern for the same thing — a healthy river to sustain for the future.”
Community members will write their wishes on flags, he said, that will be placed around the park for several weeks.
As per tradition, the annual River Festival gathers various agencies and nonprofits together to share their work and how it ties into promoting and/or maintaining the health of the Dungeness River.
Some of the 20-plus participating agencies and nonprofits include the U.S. Forest Service, Peninsula Trails Coalition, Back Country Horsemen-Peninsula Chapter and the North Olympic Land Trust.
After switching from two full days to a one-day Friday event last year, organizers estimate about 1,500 people participated, including hundreds of school children.
This year, third-fifth grade students from Greywolf and Helen Haller elementary schools return on Friday, along with students from Five Acre School, Port Townsend private schools and local homeschool students.
Jones said he feels exhibitors over the years have gotten better at sharing their messages and it’s become more relevant to students and the community.
“We’ve also gotten a bit better at handling 800 kids and having an impactful message with them,” he said.
In an effort to include those who work or are busy during Friday, organizers offer a Community Night from 4- 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, with some booths, live music from Jake Reichner and food from Pacific Pantry.
The evening also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Dungeness River Management Team, a group that works on watershed issues and restore the Dungeness River’s health.
“They’ve had a big impact on the river and its restoration and where it’s going,” Jones said.
Winners of the team’s photo contest will be announced, too, on Thursday night.
At 7 p.m. Thursday, organizers host a screening of “The Memory of Fish,” a documentary about salmon advocate Dick Goin, who battled for the removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams. Weather permitting, the event will be held outdoors and co-producer Emma Jones will host a Q&A after the film.
Powell Jones anticipates a large turnout for the film because the River Center’s “Learn by the Light of the Moon” series has been “hugely popular” with upwards of 90 people attending for the “really cool atmosphere.”
For more information, contact the Dungeness River Audubon Center at 360-681-4076 or RiverCenter@olympus.net.