Crowds flock to Festival of the River

ARLINGTON — Joel Bockovich and Terry Myer came prepared with a day’s worth of sunscreen.

It turned out the Everett residents needed it.

With temperatures flirting with 90 degrees, attendees of the 21st annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River and Pow Wow did their best to stay cool as they checked out the free celebration on Saturday, Aug. 14 and Sunday, Aug. 15 at River Meadows Park.

Event organizers estimate that between 15,000 and 16,000 people attended the festival, which included performances by national musical acts The Neville Brothers and Jake Owen.

The Neville Brothers headlined Saturday night, while Jake Owen took to the stage on Sunday night.

“The crowd response was exceptional — The Neville Brothers played for close to two hours and Jake Owen probably played for 100 minutes,” said Terry Morgan, music manager for the event. “All the bands put on a great show.”

Other artists to perform on Saturday included The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Musselwhite, LeRoy Bell and His Only Friends and Rezmonk Nation. Sunday performances came from Emerson Drive, The Band Perry, The Quebe Sisters Band and Mike Gouchie.

New to this year’s festival was a second stage for musicians. The stage, located near the food vendors, saw performances from a number of other bands such as Gina Sala, Aces UP and Kristen Ward.

While music may have been a big draw to the Festival of the River, attendees also had a chance to check out the annual Pow Wow sessions.

Participants of all ages took part in exhibition, social and intertribal dances during the two days.

Festival coordinator Franchesca Perez said that organizers moved the Pow Wow circle to a new, larger area during this year’s event.

“I’m sure it made a big difference in terms of people experiencing it,” Perez said. “We got nothing but praise from people.”

Perez added that this year organizers decided to add children’s story telling to the Pow Wow.

“That was super popular this year,” she said. “We have never done anything specifically in the Pow Wow for the kids.”

But those weren’t the only activities available for festival attendees.

Four-year-old Lexi Linder of Granite Falls was among a group of children to watch a flute performance by Burlington resident Peter Ali at the Children’s Stage on Saturday.

Children and their parents saw musical performances, story-telling and puppet shows during the two-day festival.

“I think the kids have a great time,” said Lake Stevens resident Gene Trunell, Lexi’s grandfather. “They can really learn a lot.

Community members were also able to take part in a number of salmon habitat walks near the park, experience live logging shows by Greg Bisby and watch renowned sand sculptor Alan Matsumoto carve the festival logo into a sculpture.

“I do the festival theme that’s on the poster,” Matsumoto said. “I always replicate that in the sand and I always position it in the best possible light. It’s different every year.”

Food and tribal wares were also on sale during the festival. Perez said that approximately 100 vendors — including four local merchants — participated.

At one of the vendor tents, 4-year-old Skye Gannon of Seattle was one of the children to have their faces painted by volunteer Jackie Miller, a Stillaguamish Tribal member.

Skye opted for a butterfly.

“She chose the face paint — that’s her favorite part,” said Gannon’s mom, Seattle resident Rachel Werth.

Nearby, Bob Banks of the Evergreen Fly Fishing Club was busy tying flies and educating the public about his craft.

Banks said that the club has set up a booth at the event for about the past seven years.

It’s hit or miss with the kind of questions he fields, he said.

“Usually the kids are just interested in the bugs we use,” Banks laughed.

Attendance for this year’s event was — approximately 11,000 people showed up to last year’s festival.

The Stillaguamish Tribe’s mission of the Festival of the River is to help people who live and work in the Stillaguamish watershed and surrounding areas understand how their actions can make their environment cleaner for people, fish and wildlife.

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