Whale Fest will kick off with the annual parade on March 12

Whale Fest will kick off with the annual parade on March 12

Pacific Rim Whale Festival blows in

The West Coast’s annual whale spectacular is primed to spout it out loud for its 30th anniversary.

  • Mar. 11, 2016 5:00 a.m.

Nora O’Malley



The 30th Annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival has arrived and it’s spouting like a big one.

Back in the eighties when Whale Fest was born, the event was solely a Ukee tradition with only two operators offering whale watching tours—the Canadian Princess and Subtidal Adventures.

Now visitors and locals alike can admire the impressive grey whale migration from the shores along Ucluelet’s Amphitrite Point or go by boat with one of the many whale watching vessels in the area.

Festival coordinator Susan Payne said the two-week long event has even morphed into a really cool, educational type of festival.

“Our guest speakers this year are excellent. Dr. Barrett-Lennard coming in from the Vancouver Aquarium he’s done lots of photography with drones on orcas. He’ll be at our Sea-Change panel on Sunday. Dr. Jay Cullen will be at the Sea-Change panel as well as a Masters Student from UVic and they’re all taking about some of the issues we have with noise pollution,” said Payne.

Another highlight of the calendar is National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier who will wow Tofino festival goers on March 26 with their photography and hopeful perspectives on the future of the ocean.

Staple Whale Fest fundraisers like the Chowder Chow Down (March 20) and Barnacle Bluegrass (March 19) have also been given a slight energy boost in honour of the 30th anniversary.

“The Chowder Chowdown is going to be amazing. We’ve got nine restaurants and this year it’s a little bit different, instead of the rec. department taking it on it’s the Food Bank on the Edge. It’s a great fundraiser for them and we suggest that you bring your own small bowl, spoon, and a non-perishable item for the food bank,” Payne said.

“Barnacle Bluegrass has a great following and we decided we should bring a local band in as well as bring another band in…We’ve got Viper Central coming in and we’ve got Little Saturday playing, warming up the crowd. That should be fun because they’re all local girls.”

Up for purchase at all the event stations this year is a vivid calendar created by the Pacific Rim Whale Fest Committee to celebrate the 30-year milestone.

“We came up with a calendar which showcases all the past posters. It’s a fifteen month calendar so it goes right through until the following March.

We’ve never done a calendar before so this is a brand new initiative,” said festival treasurer Marilyn McEwen.

McEwen, who has been on the festival committee for the last 18 years, said that this year they tried to schedule the calendar events in such way to alleviate the amount of driving back and forth between towns on the same day.

“If you live in one town and not the other or just have limited amount of time to get to events you can just stay in one town and do everything there is to do in that day in that town,” she said.

Maritime Kids Day will visit both Tofino and Ucluelet this year (March 23 and March 24 respectively).

“The Strawberry Isle build-a-whale will be there and then our guest performer is Norman Foote. He is a Canadian Juno winner from Vancouver and he’s worked with Fred Penner. He’s got these big huge giant puppets,” said Payne.

“We are very thankful to Remote Passages for sponsoring Tofino and for Jamie’s for sponsoring Ucluelet kids days. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to pay for it all.”