Artists Melissa Koch (right) and Molly Brown look forward to creating more salmon for a bigger school of fish. (Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

Artists Melissa Koch (right) and Molly Brown look forward to creating more salmon for a bigger school of fish. (Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

‘Salmon’ to brighten Langley whale parade

Once again, Langley will be welcoming the whales with open arms.

The annual “Welcome the Whales Festival and Parade” weekend is this Saturday and Sunday to celebrate the return of a group of gray whales that pass by Whidbey Island each year to feed on the ghost shrimp buffet in the mudflats below local waters.

The two-day festival includes costume crafting stations, children’s activities, educational presentations, a beach clean up and the main attraction, the Whale and Critter Parade.

Two South Whidbey artists have been working hard in recent weeks on an “artful activism” project, creating five-and-a-half-foot-long salmon crafted out of reed, gauze, hemp twine and wax. The ghostly white salmon that contain twinkling lights will be featured in the whale parade.

“We would like to make a big splash,” Molly Brown of Langley said.

The salmon are essential to the health of orcas, Clinton artist Melissa Koch said, and she wanted to create a art project that would raise awareness of issues that affect animals, plants and habitats and help bring people together to find solutions to environmental damage.

“If the Chinook go, the orcas go,” she said.

Koch and Brown plan to create between 6 and 15 fish and will be at the Whidbey Island Waldorf School classrooms in the fall to show students how to create the giant fish. One fish takes about 15 hours to make, Brown said.

The South Whidbey community has events throughout the year celebrating both orcas and gray whales.

The upcoming festive weekend is organized by the Orca Network and the Langley Chamber of Commerce and has been a tradition for over 15 years.

“There’s a lot of interest in whale watching and protecting the environment,” Inge Morascini of the Langley Chamber of Commerce said. “The kids always look forward to (the festival) every year. They always come up with unique costumes.”

Organizing the event has been going well this year, Cindy Hansen, Orca Network education and events coordinator, said.

The group of 10 to 12 North Puget Sound gray whales is nicknamed “the Sounders,” she explained. People will have a chance to spot the returning whales if they purchase tickets for the gray whale cruise on Sunday. There are only a few spots left on the popular attraction, she said.

“I’m looking forward to spending time with people who love and appreciate gray whales,” she said.

Here is the weekend schedule:

Saturday April 13: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Langley United Methodist Church there will be hands-on educational displays, costume-making, face painting and children’s activities.

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the Langley Whale Center at 105 Anthes will be open with special activities and displays about gray whales.

1:30 p.m.: the Whale and Critter Parade in downtown Langley begins at the U.S. Bank parking lot.

3 p.m.: Presentations begin at the back at the Langley Methodist Church. Invited presenters include Ray Fryberg of the Tulalip Tribes and John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective.

Sunday, April 14: 10 a.m.:The Langley beach cleanup to help protect gray whale feeding habitat; meet at Whale Bell.

11 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Langley Whale Center’s Exhibits, displays and gift shop are open

3-5 p.m.: take to the water to see the Gray whales, on Orca Network’s Gray Whale Fundraising Cruise with the Glacier Spirit. Cost is $75 per person and includes appetizers and non-alcoholic drinks. Tickets are available at www.orcanetwork.org

A sparkle of lights illuminate the salmon. The salmon are made out of a variety of materials and held together with hot glue. The artists are considering crafting future salmon with the addition of plastic bags.

A sparkle of lights illuminate the salmon. The salmon are made out of a variety of materials and held together with hot glue. The artists are considering crafting future salmon with the addition of plastic bags.

Melissa Koch hangs up a completed ghostly white salmon, covered with gauze. Hopefully the real-life salmon don’t become ghost salmon, she joked.

Melissa Koch hangs up a completed ghostly white salmon, covered with gauze. Hopefully the real-life salmon don’t become ghost salmon, she joked.

Artist Melissa Koch (front) wraps gauze around the reed skeleton of the five-foot salmon she and Molly Brown are crafting. Their salmon will be featured in the upcoming Welcome the Whales Parade when the city of Langley celebrates the return of traveling gray whales. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

Artist Melissa Koch (front) wraps gauze around the reed skeleton of the five-foot salmon she and Molly Brown are crafting. Their salmon will be featured in the upcoming Welcome the Whales Parade when the city of Langley celebrates the return of traveling gray whales. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

Molly Brown holds her glowing salmon, demonstrating the shine of the small inner lights strung through the hollow fish. The parade may not show the lights, as it takes place during the day. However, the artists plan to bring the salmon to Olympia in support of various whale-friendly legislation. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

Molly Brown holds her glowing salmon, demonstrating the shine of the small inner lights strung through the hollow fish. The parade may not show the lights, as it takes place during the day. However, the artists plan to bring the salmon to Olympia in support of various whale-friendly legislation. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group)

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