Come join us in celebrating the La Conner Rotary Club’s 51st annual (almost) Smelt Derby Festival with a full day of activities for the entire family Saturday, February 27th. This weekend also kicks off the La Conner Daffodil Festival 2016! For kids, we’re offering a family day of fun with FREE activities all day long.
We say “almost” 50th consecutive festival, because sometime in the 1950’s, a large group of rowdy attendees took over the town and drank too much five-cent beer. The police chief resigned in the midst of it all, town mayor Fred Martin closed down the event, and it was not held the following year. It was back the year after that – without five-cent beer!
For most years, the smelt were plentiful because of the fish processing plant on the channel. Over the last three years, they have been scarce, and only a very small amount were caught and entered in the fishing contest. Two years ago, we fed the smelt two times a week for about a month before the festival. The result was still few but noticeably larger smelt.
But that’s not stopping the Rotary Club. We’re planning to make the 51st annual Smelt Derby Festival a memorable community event, even if the smelt don’t cooperate.
“We decided to change things up this year, since we’re now more than 50 years old, and we’re facing declining smelt runs,” said John Milnor, Smelt Derby Festival Chair for the La Conner Rotary Club. “We wanted to turn this into a real family fun festival, so we started by making most things free and adding some new elements.”
First, the charge for entering the fishing competition has been removed, although cash prizes, trophies and/or ribbons will be awarded.
Second, the Children’s Museum of Skagit County, along with Rotary members, will host a free carnival with a variety of games and activities for kids at Maple Hall from noon – 3 p.m.
The third new element is a La Conner Merchants Fish Walk, in which participating merchants will validate cards for every $2 spent at their businesses. After $20 worth has been validated, entrants will be eligible for one of two great prizes – an overnight stay for two at Katy’s Inn with dinner for two at Oyster & Thistle or an inflatable youth fishing kayak from the Port of Skagit. Cards can be picked up at the fish registration site or Maple Hall, and validated cards need to be turned in at Maple Hall before 2:30 p.m.
Smelt Derby Family Festival 2016 Schedule
- Fishing Derby, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., registration at Anelia’s Kitchen & Stage parking lot on 1st Street in La Conner
- La Conner High School Senior Class Pancake Breakfast, 8 – 11 a.m., $7 adults, $3 kids, Maple Hall
- Fish printing, 9 a.m. – noon, Maple Hall
- Family Fun Carnival, presented by Children’s Museum of Skagit County, noon – 3 p.m., Maple Hall
- La Conner Merchants Fish Walk until 2 p.m. (pick up entry cards at Maple Hall or Fishing Derby registration site)
- Fish awards and drawing for two great raffle prizes from Merchants Fish Walk, 2:30 p.m., Maple Hall
“We are so grateful to our business sponsors for their support,” Milnor said. “They have made it possible for us to create a free family fun event as we enter the next 50 years of the smelt festival. We also appreciate the merchants who are participating in our new Fish Walk.”
For more information, including event sponsors and merchants participating in the Fish Walk, visit www.laconnerrotary.org or on Facebook – La Conner Rotary 51st Smelt Derby Family Festival.
CONTACT: John Milnor, (360) 424-0760.