The year’s first big event in the is, once again, the . First held in 2008, this marks the fourth year for the environmental-slash-recreational celebration.
Once again the festival will span three days, beginning with a benefit at on Friday evening, and a Sunday “family day” at the Warm Springs Visitor’s Center in Dry Creek Valley, as well as the Saturday fest in the Plaza.
Steelhead are, as you know, sea-going rainbow trout, who like their close relatives salmon migrate to the open ocean instead of staying in freshwater rivers and lakes.
Sponsors include Trout Unlimited, the Sonoma County Water Agency, Russian Riverkeeper, California Department of Fish and Game and Army Corp of Engineers, all agencies or non-profits with a vested interest in the health of the rivers. But it’s not just fishermen and bureaucrats who can enjoy the Steelhead Festival, if previous years are any indication.
“I don’t think the Steelhead fest is just for fishermen,” said Liz Keeley, event coordinator. “I think this event is for normal people. We have all sorts of other stuff about nature and the environment. It’s really for anyone who loves the outdoors and embraces the environment – or just wants to find out what’s going on with it.”
That’s one reason the Healdsburg Plaza has generally been crowded with a wide variety of ages, interests and both locals and out-of-towners for the Saturday festival. Among Plaza events will again be a free trout pond for young anglers, a fly-fishing demonstration pond with tips from the pros, displays of fishing gear and boats, and a display of live steelhead fish.
Other exhibits include a hands-on art for kids and a kids’ play area from and City of Healdsburg, cooking demos by local chefs, beer from the Bear Republic, wine from Steelhead Winery, , and , and numerous food booths and trucks. There also will be live music by the popular Rose Town Ramblers, the same fun group as at last year’s event.
The event in the Healdsburg Plaza is free, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. But while it’s the centerpiece of the Healdsburg Steelhead Festival, it’s not the only event.
On Friday evening, activities get underway with a benefit dinner at where participants can enjoy a Bristol Bay wild salmon dinner prepared by chef Dennis Hogan, with pasta pesto, Caesar salad, rolls and dessert cupcakes.
This year's guest speaker is professional fishing guide Jim Norton of Montana, who will be showing his short film “Salmon: Running the Gauntlet.” The movie aired on PBS’ Nature program last year and drew one of the series’ largest audiences, with its astonishing footage of migrating salmon. (You can preview the film here.)
There will also be a silent auction, where participants can bid on a new kayak, custom fly fishing rods, fishing trips, fishing accessories and more.—including a 4-day Airstream vacation from Airstream Escapes. Cost is $40 for dinner and the movie, with music following by John Ruch and Julianne Poirier.
Raffle tickets, which will also be available at the Saturday fest in the Plaza, go for $20 for five tickets.
Finally, Sunday’s event at Warm Springs Dam will include activities at the Visitor’s Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Many of the exhibitors from Saturday will also be here, as well as a nature program, mushroom specialists, bird rescue, fish sorting and special tours of the hatchery, plus music and food trucks.
“And of course watching the fish jump up the ladder!” said Keeley.
For more information about the Healdsburg Wild Steelhead Festival, please visit www.healdsburgsteelheadfest.org
Facebook users can also find information about the Wild Steelhead Festival, including new additions to the event and breaking news, by going http://www.facebook.com/pages/Healdsburg-Wild-Steelhead-Festival/
The Wild Steelhead Festival is sponsored by the Redwood Empire Chapter of Trout Unlimited, , , Russian Riverkeeper and the . Proceeds go toward funding public education and conservation programs related to Steelhead trout, including restoring Healdsburg’s Foss Creek.