The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is breaching for a COVID-safe return in March. (Poster photo by Owen Crosby)

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is breaching for a COVID-safe return in March. (Poster photo by Owen Crosby)

Pacific Rim Whale Festival aims for virtual return in March

Educational celebration scheduled to arrive in Tofino-Ucluelet on March 15.

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival is readying its triumphant return after a two-year hiatus.

Every March, tens of thousands of grey whales splash through the Tofino-Ucluelet region during their roughly 16,000 kilometre migration from Mexico to the Arctic. To celebrate the annual phenomenal spectacle that migration brings to local waters, the West Coast launched the Pacific Rim Whale Festival in 1987 and the event brought an educational extravaganza to the town’s spring calendar for several decades.

In 2019 however, a perceived lack of volunteer support led organizers to cancel what would have been the festival’s 33rd appearance and, just a week prior to the festival’s anticipated return in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lockdown that forced the event to be cancelled for a second time.

READ MORE: Pacific Rim Whale Festival postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic

This year’s festival coordinator Sarah Watt told the Westerly News on Sunday that Whale Fest is breaching to make its 33rd appearance this spring, though it will require an outside-the-box creative approach due to the ongoing pandemic-related restrictions.

“Obviously, because of the current regulations in place, we’re not going to be putting out any events which encourage crowding of any type or outside visitors to the West Coast, so we’re putting the majority of the events online so everybody can be involved from the safety of their own homes,” Watt said.

The festival is scheduled to run from March 15-21 and a calendar of events is expected to be posted to the festival’s website— pacificrimwhalefestival.com—in the coming weeks.

Watt suggested there will be some public festivities during the week targeting solo revellers and small groups, like potential art features, public displays and scavenger hunts.

She added that many of the West Coast’s local organizations are onboard with the online-based format and have all become well-adapted to online presentations during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail ventures online to inspire self-isolators

She also noted that hosting inspiring talks and presentations online could open the festival up to a much broader audience as marine life lovers across the globe will be able to tune in.

“I definitely think that’s a plus. In future years, when it’s safer to travel, if it reaches people who may never have heard about the Whale Festival before or know the beauty of all the nature along our coastline here, hopefully it can plant the seed in their minds and it will inspire them to come visit us,” she said adding she’s excited to showcase the West Coast’s abundant research groups and organizations.

“It would be a great way to get it out there and reach potential crowds that maybe we’ve never targeted before and also give them an idea of all the great organizations based on this coast and what they’re doing to help conserve our ecosystem.”

She said that while the festival is focused on grey whales, there’s no shortage of wonders to celebrate locally.

“It’s a great way to get the community together and feeling inspired about what is along our coastline,” she said. “The main focus is on the grey whale migration, it’s an epic migration, the grey whales return to us every year and whale watching is one of the core activities in our communities, but also we just have so much great nature and wildlife and all the organizations in the area who celebrate it and put so much time and effort into serving our marine ecosystems as well.”

READ MORE: Washed up Risso’s dolphin offers glimpse into “whole other world” near Tofino

She said there will also be a keen focus put on the region’s arts community and how the ocean connects with all West Coasts residents.

“As much as it’s about the wildlife, I think it’s a way to celebrate the people along this coastline and what they’re doing for the wildlife,” she said.

She added migrating the festival over to an online format has been challenging, but she’s confident it will be a blast.

“I’m definitely excited, but it is also nerve wracking…You want to make sure that it’s engaging as well and it’s keeping people interested,” she said. “People maybe think that it would be easier to go online, but I would say there is probably just as much work, if not more, involved because we’re exploring a new area. We’re definitely excited for it and we’re not putting any pressure on this year’s festival for it to include everything previous years have had, that’s impossible, especially while trying to keep it safe, considering COVID-19, so it will just be a nice reintroduction back to our community and whoever else wants to be involved.”

READ MORE: Behest of the West: Get yourself a button and go

She said the popular buttons designed by local students that have traditionally been used for entry to many of the festival’s public events will still happen this year and strategies for displaying them and making them available to purchase as souvenirs are being worked out.

Information for how to participate in the festival will be posted to the festival’s website at www.pacificrimwhalefestival.com as well as on its Instagram and Facebook pages over the next several weeks.

“We will be doing a call out for volunteers and I’ve actually already had some people contact me, which is great,” Watt said, adding she’s also hoping to engage local businesses in adding to the pulse of the festival by decorating their storefronts and engaging with the week’s events.

Anyone interested in reaching out, getting involved or sharing ideas is encouraged to reach out to watt at whalefest.coordinator@gmail.com.

“The dates are fast approaching,” she said. “As much as this is for national and international visitors, we also just want it to be a celebration between our communities along the West Coast here.”



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: VIDEO: Pacific Rim Whale Festival kicks off with parade in Tofino

READ MORE: VIDEO: Ucluelet local selected as Pacific Rim Whale Festival’s 2019 poster artist

READ MORE: Behest of the West: How the West wove grey into gold

CoronavirusEventsFestivalGrey WhalesTofino,ucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Hotel Zed Tofino. (Westerly file photo)
Two Tofino businesses up for building awards

14th annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read