Congrats to Courtney Kate Johnson for winning the Westerly New’s essay contest with this heartwarming Pacific Rim Whale Festival story titled ‘My first fabulous migration’.
I moved to Ucluelet from Vancouver just after the 2010 Winter Olympics. I had left my friends and family behind in a split second decision to move to the west coast, and although I had made a few friends and spend my days exploring, I still felt lonely and isolated.
One day, the lovely lady I worked for (the sensational Signy Cohen of Reflecting Spirit Gallery) showed me the events calendar for the whale festival and suggested I check out some of the events and meet people.
What was a whale festival, (I inquired.)
Well, it’s when the whales migrate, and people are festive about it, (the obvious answer.)
I looked at the events, imagining how delighted the whales would feel if they knew that the ‘weird species without blowholes’ dedicated an entire celebration to their yearly arrival.
I scanned over the events list: Barnacle blues…Martini migration, Chowder chow down….and, Sweet indulgence? (Just to name a few). I was fuzzy on the event details, but I was certain of one thing: Any town with people who liked to celebrate the migration periods of giant mammals with music, drinks, and ‘all you can eat soup and baked goods’ were definitely my kind of people.
I was not disappointed.
I ate my weight in whale shaped cookies and took full advantage of the BYOBowl suggestion for the chow down. Sensational music and more than one too many martinis…I had a whale of a time(pun clearly intended).
What I remember most is how kind and jovial everyone was, which I realized was because of a particular feeling of community spirit as much as it was because of whales. I didn’t know it at the time, but I could sense this place was special.
Years later, I can now put names to the faces of the memories I have of my first whale fest. Many of those people have become friends who are like family.
I know we tend to take a lot of things for granted, but when I think back to the first whale fest I ever experienced, I understand why this place is so perfect, and why people here are so special.
This place gets inside your bones, if you let it. It truly becomes part of your being. It is home.
The whales know it, and sometimes I think that it’s part of the reason why they come here.
-Courtney Kate Johnson