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Welcome to our online newsletter where we will keep you updated on everything the Pierce Conservation District is working on, from our work On the Farm to Water Quality Improvement. The Conservation Corner highlights our most interesting stories, but does not include everything. Find our other stories linked in the sidebar and below.
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Posted on November 22, 2023 at 3:21 PM by Laura Wagner
On November 18, Pierce Conservation District attended the Gig Harbor Chum Fest. The event was a great success, with 203 total visitors coming to our tent for some educational fishy fun!
The vlog posted to our Instagram Reels showcasing the day of fun at Chum Fest 2023, featuring two pictures by Julie Ammann
Chum Fest is an annual event near the Harbor History Museum to celebrate the return of chum salmon to Donkey Creek. These celebrations are cohosted by the Harbor History Museum and Harbor WildWatch. This year, due to construction, it turned into a "Chum Walk" along the gravel path that runs behind the museum, featuring 7 participating organizations with their own canopied activity stations.
Participants started at Austin Park where they received a "Salmon Passport". To fill their passports, they travelled to different activity stations of hands-on learning opportunities like collaborative salmon art, salmon bracelet making, facepainting, and Pierce Conservation District's "Salmon Survivors Game". At the end, visitors turned their passport in to the Harbor History Museum front desk to enter a drawing for a salmon-themed prize.
At Pierce Conservation District's canopy, our main attraction was the Salmon Survivors Game: a fun game that teaches players about the many complications that salmon can encounter throughout their life stages. To play, you are given a cup of 1000 salmon eggs, represented with beans, to take care of. Then you move between card stations and roll a wooden die that tells you what fraction of your fish die and how. By the time you make it to the spawning phase of life, you should have 1-3 salmon left! Regardless of the number of survivors, all players are awarded a small wooden salmon token that they can color and make into a magnet or even hang it somewhere in their house as a little ornament.
Apart from the Salmon Survivors Game, we also had another table with two salmon plushies, vials showcasing real salmon early life stages, PCD pamphlets, and some "Salmon Steward Pledges". After learning about some harsh factors that influence salmon ability to survive, visitors could take a pledge to protect salmon habitat by checking provided methods or writing their own ideas.
Two kids look at the early salmon life stages vials as Laura explains them, moment captured by Julie Ammann
Pierce Conservation District had so much fun meeting all 203 visitors to our tent! The attendees of Chum Fest included a wide range of people: entire families, visitors from inside and outside of Pierce County, educators, a WDFW worker, and more. Pierce Conservation District Board Member and local Gig Harbor photographer, Julie Ammann, even came out to visit the Chum Fest event. We were so excited that she could attend the event and chat with us!
We had so many memorable interactions at the event. One visitor was a salmon biologist visiting all the way from Alaska! She was so enticed by the Salmon Survivors Game that she hoped to use it in her Alaskan community. We also had the opportunity to speak with an elderly Pierce County resident who shared a story about her growing interest in camas, a fun flowering plant native to many Puget Sound spaces!
One of Laura's favorite interactions was with a young toddler. She was just barely tall enough to notice that there were soft salmon plushies on our table. As a toddler, of course you have to grab one! Likely out of courtesy to our setup, her mother tried to stop her from taking one. However, Laura said it was ok if she played with the salmon for a while. After some quick discouragement from trying chew the salmon by the mother, Laura came over and played with the salmon plush with the toddler. Together, they played by making the salmon do swimming motions, the little girl mirrored some of Laura's reactions or motions, she petted the salmon, and they took turns giving the salmon a big hug.
Our time at Chum Fest reminded us that getting the Pierce County community excited about salmon and their habitat is something for all ages! You could be listening to a story from an elderly person about native plants that provide good habitat and water quality for salmon. You could be talking with an educator about her curriculum surrounding salmon. You could be using a salmon plush to play with a toddler. Regardless of who you're talking to and what you're doing, all efforts matter in raising awareness about these beautiful fish that we share habitat with.
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