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

Kyle Patrick McGuire was give a nine-month non-custodial sentencing to be followed by two years of probation on Wednesday, March 3, at the Nanaimo Law Courts. (PQB News file photo)
Bowser man sentenced to house arrest after guilty plea to child pornography offence

Nine-month non-custodial sentence to be followed by two years probation

The Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges with garbage bin replacement requests. (Michael Briones photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges to meet requests for garbage bin replacements

Waste manager says RDN will have a surplus of 100-litre carts

Members of the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. set up the tube where rainbow trout were released into Spider Lake on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Michael Briones photo)
Fishing time: 1,800 rainbow trout released into Spider Lake

Society records spike in fishing licences during pandemic

A map showing where the new developments for affordable housing will be located on Moilliet Street in Parksville. (submitted photo)
Parksville city council approves development permit for 87 housing units

Development to include four-storey apartment and eight townhouses

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read