Klamath River chinook will resume their place as the stars of the Yurok Tribe’s 56th Annual Salmon Festival on Saturday.

“We are happy to have salmon back on the menu in our homes and at the Salmon Festival,” Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. said in a written statement. “We invite everyone to the festival, to taste the goodness of the fish and to celebrate the Klamath River.”

Klamath River chinook were absent from the festival in 2016 and 2017 due to low fish runs, according to a tribal press release. During those years the local salmon population plummeted as a result of juvenile salmon disease outbreaks, excessive water diversions and water quality issues caused by four Klamath dams, according to the release.

As a result, the tribe canceled its commercial season in 2016. In 2017, the tribe canceled both its commercial and subsistence seasons. Alaska salmon stood in for local chinook at last year’s festival. In 2016 the tribe chose not to serve salmon at all due to low Klamath runs.

Although it chose to cancel its commercial season for a third year, the Yurok Tribe resumed its subsistence fishery.

This year, the tribe’s allocation is about 14,500 salmon, fisheries director Dave Hillemeier told the Triplicate in June. The Pacific Fishery Management Council anticipates a spawning escapement goal of about 40,000 fish, Robin Ehlke, the council’s salmon staff officer, told the Triplicate in March.

Salmon for Saturday’s festival will come from the subsistence fishery, according to tribal spokesman Matt Mais.

On Saturday, festival-goers will be able to a closer look at the tribe’s efforts to rehabilitate and restore salmon habitat. The Yurok Fisheries Department and Watershed Program will provide folks with a 360-degree view of the tribe’s rehabilitation projects and remote natural landscapes using a virtual reality headset.

Another new element of this year’s festival includes a presentation by seven expert traditional basket weavers, according to the tribe’s press release. Representing several local tribes, these basket weavers will showcase different types of ceremonial regalia, basketry and other cultural objects constructed from materials from the forest, river and seashore, according to the release.

Other festival highlights include the Klamath River Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Veteran’s Breakfast, the annual parade, an obstacle course and fun zone for kids, a classic car show and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. There will be a traditional stick game tournament, the Ney-Puey Color Run, Indian Card Game Tournament and the Archie Thompson Memorial Softball Tournament.

Live music will be provided by Humboldt County rock band Blue Rhythm Revue. Nearly 100 vendors will offer gifts, art and treats, according to the press release.

The festival begins at 7:30 a.m. with the Veteran’s Breakfast, which is free for current and past service members. Those participating in the Ney-Puey Color Run should meet at 9 a.m. at the Yurok Tribal Justice Center.

The annual salmon lunch starts at 11 a.m. The lunch consists of a salmon steak, three homemade side dishes and water and is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and children under 10 years old.

Events will be held the day before and after the festival, including a reading by Lyn Risling from her new children’s book “Coyote at the Big Time” at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Klamath River Book Nook.

On Sunday, the Cal-Ore River Racers Association will hold a hydroplane race on the Lower Klamath River at noon.

For more information about the Klamath Salmon Festival, visit www.yuroktribe.org/salmonfestival.htm.

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