by Steve Benson, Express Staff Writer
Salmon education and awareness, combined with traditional Shoshone-Bannock dances, live music and art, will descend on Stanley this weekend in the 6th Annual Sawtooth Salmon Festival.
The event kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday with an introductory ceremony from Shoshone-Bannock leader Hobby Hevewah. That is followed by a visit to Chinook spawning beds on the upper Salmon River near Stanley at 11 a.m., the first of six throughout the weekend.
According to Matt Yost of Idaho Rivers United, one of the sponsors of the festival, only about 1,500 Chinook (260 wild) have returned to their spawning grounds on the upper Salmon River near Stanley this summer, and only six sockeye have returned to Redfish Lake.
"But we have spotted some salmon spawning and we will have the opportunity to show people," Yost said.
Biologists are still trying to figure out why returns were so low. Many believe it's a combination of several factors, including ocean temperature and food availability and deteriorating river conditions.
Yost said the plight of the salmon is what makes the festival so important.
"That's why we're here and having the event," he said, adding that the event is designed to raise awareness and get people active in the fight to save the salmon.
Introductory talks by Idaho Fish and Game biologists and Shoshone-Bannock leaders will be held throughout the weekend, and staff from the Sawtooth National Recreation Area will host an educational salmon tent and lead experiential children's activities. The festival will also include an art fair and live music from Jeremiah James, Ryan Peck, "JC" Caccia and a special performance Saturday night by Kenny Saunders and the Big Sky Cadillac's.
Yost said about 1,500 people attended the festival last year, and he expects more this year. He said the sponsors--Idaho Rivers United, the Stanley Chamber of Commerce, SNRA, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, The River Company, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Caldwell Transportation Company--spent more money on advertising and entertainment and have attracted twice as many vendors this year.
"It's hard to beat Stanley with the Sawtooths in the background and the Salmon River, good music and lots of good food and drink," Yost said. "It will be a really good time--educational and as well entertaining."
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