Pacific Rim Whale Festival returns to Tofino-Ucluelet

Annual festival returns to two-week length starting March 12

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival has announced extended dates for the 30th Annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival being held in Tofino, Ucluelet and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, from March 12 to 27.

While the annual festival has grown over the past 30 years, the festival itself, once a three-week celebration, has over time been compressed down to nine days. With spring break encompassing two weeks on the coast, it now makes sense to re-visit the length of the festival.

“This will allow us to create new events, spreading them out so more people can attend,” stated festival coordinator, Susan Payne. “As organizers, it’s a bit of a challenge to compress 40 or 50 events into nine days. Extending into another week gives us a chance to allow some space between events, and takes the pressure off our hard-working volunteers as well.”

Marilyn McEwen, the treasurer of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival Society, and part of the organizing committee for the past 18 years stated, “The whalefest will not only celebrate the onset of spring and the northerly migration of the grey whale population, but 30 years of the history and culture of the festival, showcasing its beginnings right up to now.”

The PRWF marks the opening of the region’s renowned whale watching season, and the annual migration of over 25,000 grey whales on their 13,000 kilometre journey from the waters of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to the Bering Sea. Known for the abundance of grey, humpback and orca sightings year-round, the Tofino-Ucluelet area is one of the world’s premier whale watching destinations with more than a dozen operators conducting whale watching boat tours from March through October.

Over the course of the past 30 years, the communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island, once dependent on resource-based industries to fuel their economy,  have transitioned into tourism communities. Both Tofino and Ucluelet offer accommodation from all levels from camping to give-star resorts, in addition to hiking, kayaking, fishing and whale watching opportunities.

Educate, inspire and entertain is the key message of the festival, with many of the events and guest speakers revolving around ocean conservation and education.  This year, world-renowned photographer Paul Nicklen, with Christina Mittermeier will present in Tofino on March 26, courtesy of Ocean Outfitters. Nicklen has published 11 stories for National Geographic magazine, including the Auguest 2011 cover story on the elusive spirit bear. His latest book, Polar Obsession, was published by National Geographic in November 2009.

The festival also offers special culinary events that have been a tradition for over 15 years. The Wickaninnish Gala and Silent Auction is a culinary feast of food and wine parings produced by executive chef Warren Barr and his kitchen brigade. Also offered is the Chowder Chow Down, a friendly competition of local chefs and their best chowder recipes.

Maritime Kids’ days happen in both towns with many interactive activity stations. This years’ special guest is Strawberry Isle Research’s Build a Whale, a full whale skeleton that the kids put together and learn about the insides of whales.

Artsplash! art show at Black Rock runs through the festival and showcases many local artists in various mediums. The Tofino Arts society brings the Artist Migration to celebrate the many eclectic talents of local artisans.

For a list of events, check out the website at www.pacificrimwhalefestival.com The website will be updated as events are confirmed.

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