By: Dana Sackett
Since moving to Germany, I have loved attending the near endless number of festivals that seem to fill the calendar year round. Summer fests turn into fall wine fests, which then seamlessly transitioned into various harvest, pumpkin, and beer festivals (including the famous Oktoberfest in Munich). Next will be the winter festivals and Christkindl markets. Then, before anyone realizes it, it’s time for Fasching (similar to Mardi Gras), spring fests, and summer festivals to start the cycle again. While enjoying these festivities I started to wonder where and what types of fish festivals exists back in the states and here in Europe. This wondering has led to the below list of awesome and also year-round fish festivals that I have now put on my bucket-list. Please enjoy and let us know in the comments if you have ever made it to one of these festivals.
Fall: With cooling temperatures and freshly harvested food, fall is a great time of year to enjoy a festival. In the U.S. you can enjoy the Ennis-on-the-Madison Fly Fishing Festival in Ennis, Montana in September; said to be the ‘The Fly Fishing Capital of the World.” This Festival celebrates the sport of fly-fishing with music, delicious local cuisine, fly-tying tutorials, and fly-casting competitions. The money earned from this event supports the Madison River Foundation, which backs the preservation of the Madison River Ecosystem. Another great fall festival to experience is the Fall Fish Festival in South Lake Tahoe, California. This festival celebrates the annual fall migration of the Kokanee salmon at the local U.S. Forest Service, where attendees can see Kokanee salmon spawning in an underground Stream Profile Chamber in Taylor Creek. Besides the delicious food and kids activities, this event highlights the importance of the fish species in Lake Tahoe and the neighboring area to the surrounding ecosystem.
In Europe, Ireland holds the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival where participants get to enjoy live music, gorgeous scenery, an Oyster Pearl Contest, the National Oyster Opening Championship, family activities, dancing, parades, and of-course delicious gourmet seafood. Every October since 1743 in Helsinki Finland, the Baltic Herring Festival welcomes fishers bringing their small boats to the wharf at Helsinki’s Market Square to sell their catch. Attendees will enjoy herring prepared in a variety of ways, a best herring dish competition, and a traditional sailing ship race. The O Grove Seafood Festival in Spain is held on the Atlantic coast near Portugal and is heralded as one of the largest seafood festivals in the world. Chefs battle each other to create delicious and innovative seafood dishes while on-lookers enjoy folk music and dancing.
Winter: One winter festival not to miss is the Walleye Madness at Midnight that occurs on New Year’s Eve in Port Clinton, Ohio; said to be the ‘Walleye Capitol of the World.’ This celebration includes delicious and various walleye dishes and the famous ‘Walleye Drop’ where a 600 lb fiberglass walleye named ‘Wylie’ is lowered from the sky to mark the New Year. Another must-experience winter event is the Ice Fishing Extravaganza held in Brainerd, Minnesota in January. Visitors to this event can watch or join the more than 12,000 ice fishers drop their lines to the sound of a cannon to compete to win one of several large prizes for the biggest fish. Local vendors are on-hand with food and activities for the kids, including the Youth Ice Olympics where kids can compete in ice-fishing related challenges. Across the Atlantic, the Budapest Fish Festival is another great event that includes cooking competitions, folklore shows, various fish dishes, and a spicy Hungarian specialty known as Fishman’s Soup.
Spring: Just as the weather begins to warm so do the festivities. The Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine Festival is likely to be enjoyed by the whole family, with free fly-tying and fly fishing classes for every member of the family. The small town of Felsenthal, Arkansas is over-run with visitors each spring looking to enjoy the Felsenthal Bream Fest; a festival that celebrates panfish. There, participants can join bream-fishing, arm-wrestling, and horseshoe tournaments. There is also a 5K race and other various kid’s activities, music, and food to enjoy. In Genoa, Italy, the Slow Fish Festival, a festival celebrating sustainable seafood, has been gaining momentum over the last decade. This biennial event raises public awareness about the issue of sustainable fishing in the Mediterranean. Visitors to this festival experience talks, debates, cooking workshops and demonstrations for adults and kids, tastings, a street market, fish auction, delicious and sustainable seafood, and a meet-the-fisher event where you can talk to fishers about the challenges they face in bringing you your seafood. This event has even led to two small guides on sustainable fish for the Mediterranean, one for adults (Fare’s Fair) and one for children (Bare Bones), a scientific committee to address the main issues relating to the Mediterranean, and similar events in other countries.
Summer: What is, for some, considered an unpopular fish is honored and renowned in Waterville, Minnesota at the Bullhead Days festival each June. This annual celebration of bullhead catfish includes a carnival, flea market, kids’ fishing contest, sailboat regatta, demolition derby, tractor pull, fireworks, parades, and some deep-fried bullhead catfish. In Mammoth Lakes, California the annual Kids Fishing Festival provides kids the opportunity to make their own fly, practice casting with an expert volunteer, and catch-a trout to take-home and eat from recently stocked ponds. The Dorset Seafood Festival in South England was voted the best seafood event by CNN. Restaurants and stalls line the streets at this festival to impress on visitors just how spectacular the yield along the Dorset coast can be, with seafood tastings, talks, champagne and demonstrations.
It is impossible to include all of the fish-related festivities in this one post. So, I am asking you, as our readers, to comment with any additional fish festivals that you have experienced that we have missed in this list. Be sure to add when and where the festivities take place and what you liked best about the event.
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