Arts and Entertainment

Earth and Oceans Weekend celebrates the natural world in Langley

Welcome the Whales paraders of 2009 follow the stream of colorful puppets and people through downtown Langley in celebration of the return of the gray whales.  - Brian Kelly / Record file
Welcome the Whales paraders of 2009 follow the stream of colorful puppets and people through downtown Langley in celebration of the return of the gray whales.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Record file

The welcome sight of Whidbey’s return of the gray whales is colorfully celebrated every year with the Welcome the Whales parade and festival in downtown Langley.

This year, organizers have extended their reach to embrace the Earth Day celebration at Bayview Corner in Langley that follows on the heels of parade day.

“Earth and Oceans Weekend” will be Saturday, April 24 to welcome the beloved sea mammals and Sunday, April 25 to present activities based on ways in which everyone can help to save a heated planet.

Such a combination of activities seems entirely appropriate when animal life such as whales, humans and other precious creatures have been affected by a steadily warming planet, a problem that is the focus of Earth Day gatherings everywhere.

A few of the resident gray whales were early this year. One was spotted at the south end of Saratoga Passage in mid-January, which Howard Garrett of the Orca Network said may be one side-effect of climate change. The grays usually don’t arrive until February or March in this area, Garrett had said.

Every spring, the gray whales return to Puget Sound. Along the way from Mexico to Canada and Alaska, they stop to feed and frolic in Saratoga Passage, just off Langley’s shoreline.

The celebration is one way residents of the South End can show their appreciation for the extraordinary wildlife that exists on and around the island. This will be the seventh year that whale lovers will shout such appreciation with a musical parade around town that features young and old revelers dressed in colorful costumes.

The festival begins with hands-on educational displays and costume-making at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Langley Methodist Church Fellowship Hall at Third Street and Anthes Avenue. Participants can also take part in face painting, art activities, and see a slide show about whales.

The parade of the species, led by the 20-foot-long “Gary the Gray Whale,” begins at 1:30 p.m. on Cascade Avenue at Sixth Street with a march downhill through downtown to Langley Waterfront Park for music, a ring of the whale bell and perhaps a well-timed appearance of the pod in the passage.

Parade participants can design their critter costumes at home, or come early on Saturday and make a costume at the church.

While the grays are in Saratoga Passage, observers can easily view them from the bluff. The gray whale ranges from slate gray to black with many white spots (usually patches of barnacles) and skin blotches (usually “whale lice” which are yellowish-white crustaceans). The gray whale does not have a dorsal fin, but does have a low hump on its back and a series of small knobs, or “knuckles,” running down to the flukes.

These large yearly visitors usually arrive in March and stay through May, feeding on delicacies to be found in Puget Sound, then continue their annual migration north to the Bering Sea.

Welcome the Whales goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday.

The next day, Bayview Corner rolls out the huge hanging earth ball in the Cash Store and continues the “Earth and Oceans Weekend” festivities with Earth Day.

All the areas of Bayview Corner including the Cash Store, Bayview Community Hall and both the big and small parking lots will be bustling with activities from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 25 for the yearly celebration that honors planet Earth.

Forty years after the first Earth Day, the earth is in dire straits.

With climate change threatening not only whales but every form of life on the planet, environmental experts are urging people to take stock of their use of resources and to commit to change on the most basic levels.

April 22 is the official Earth Day and around the world celebrations are focused on educating people to take an active stand against ruining the planet.

At Earth Day at Bayview Corner, visitors will see lots of ideas presented on this topic, such as worm-bin composting; solar cooking; sustainable gardening; natural dyes; electric bicycles; a seed exchange; children’s activities, including tree planting, art activities and music; and all of it with a plug for the planet.

Participants can tour the community garden planted at the Good Cheer Food Bank. They can also bring a box of favorite natural items such as pinecones, pebbles, berries and blossoms to create a temporary mandala in tribute to the earth.

The yearly walking tour of the sustainable-design elements at Bayview Corner and in the Cash Store include a look at the composting toilet, the stormwater recycle pond and recycled building materials.

Plus, there will be plenty of entertainment to keep the whole family happy and healthily earth-minded.

Call 321-4145 for more information.

“Earth and Oceans Weekend” organizers welcome everyone to both events that aim to celebrate what the world has to offer and what needs to be done to keep it healthy.

For more info about the weekend, click here.

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