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Celebrate the return of salmon to the Puyallup River

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Salmon are on their way home, after a trip abroad to the big wide ocean. It’s time to party.

Puyallup River Watershed Council will be holding its free, annual Salmon Homecoming event on Oct. 11 at the Puyallup Hatchery. This event celebrates the return of salmon to the Puyallup River system and will feature tours, bluegrass music, food and fun opportunities to learn about the importance of salmon to the Puget Sound.

The event had traditionally been held in Orting, but Puyallup River Watershed Council and event organizers wanted to celebrate closer to cities in hopes of informing and entertaining more people.

Visitors will be able to see salmon in Clark’s Creek, tour the hatchery and feed the fish as well as listen to live music and browse through the list of environmental and educational efforts from around the community. The event is geared toward children of all ages.

“It’s going to be a really fun event,” said Pierce County Public Works spokeswoman Liz Satterthwaite.

Children can see the bugs and plants in river water by eyeing samples through microscopes, climb through a 25-foot long salmon display and watch Puyallup tribal members hold a welcoming ceremony for the return of salmon, a key part of tribal culture. A Native American storyteller will also tell tales.

“It’s going to be bigger than it has ever been,” said Puyallup Hatchery Director Patty Carter. “We are kind of doing what Issaquah did 16 years ago.”

That King County festival started small in 1970 and got a boost a decade or so ago to become a regional attraction that draws 150,000 people each fall.

The non-profit hatchery foundation recently opened its educational center that has already won the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Educator of the Year award. The center will screen a 10-minute film about the life cycle of salmon that ends with children releasing fingerlings into the river.

“It is so cute because they are saying ‘bye-bye’ as they release the fish,” Carter said.

The hatchery will also unveil a directional sign that will be placed on State Route 161 to boost visits to the historical and educational landmark.

The center has become a hot ticket with school field trips as well as presentations for groups ranging from historical societies to service clubs and neighborhood associations.

“We are just hammered right now,” Carter said of the all-volunteer effort.

The Puyallup River Watershed Council works to restore, protect, and enhance the environmental, economic, and cultural health of our watershed from Mount Rainier to Commencement Bay. The nonprofit is made up of concerned citizens, representatives of businesses, governments and other groups with the goal of achieving clean water, healthy habitats and thriving communities.

The Puyallup River runs through the cities of Tacoma, Fife, Puyallup, Sumner and Orting, as well as through large areas of unincorporated Pierce County. The Puyallup Tribe of Indians owns the riverbed along the lower reaches of the river and is a key partner in conservation efforts.

Event partners include: Puyallup River Watershed Council, Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, Pierce County Surface Water Management, Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Pierce Conservation District, Port of Tacoma, Pierce County Lead Entity, the WA St. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Puget Sound.