Fall City's first Fish Festival aims to aid in river discovery

Cynthia Gerdes, right, lays out decorated
Cynthia Gerdes, right, lays out decorated 'sunfish' art, among treasures to be found in the Snoqualmie River Fish Festival at Fall City.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig/Staff Photo

At first, the art pumpkins seem like a bit of a reach. They are lovely, hand-made colorful glass globes, and just the look of them makes you want to hold one in your hands, but what’s the connection to the Snoqualmie River Fish Festival?

It’s obvious.

“Do you remember how, during floods, you sometimes see a bunch of pumpkins floating down the river?” asks Sharlet Driggs, co-president of Fall City Arts and co-chair of the Fish Festival. “These were inspired by that.”

Driggs is explaining the pumpkins to a room full of volunteers who are eager to help with Fall City’s first-ever river clean-up/treasure hunt. Some are there as part of the sponsoring organization, Fall City Arts, but most are there, in one way or another, for the fish.

“Sunfish live in the Snoqualmie River,” announces artist Cynthia Gerdes. She takes from her bag about a half-dozen palm-sized wooden sunfish, painted and decorated with sequins and hammered bottle caps. These sunnies will be among the treasures available for anyone to find Sept. 22, during the fish festival.

Next are the salmon. Event co-chair Marci Sanders holds up a plywood salmon cutout, and talks about the project of recruiting volunteers to paint and decorate them.

“I think you can just get as creative as you want,” Sanders told the group.

Some of the salmon will be raffled off during the festival as a fundraiser, while others will join the sunfish as hidden treasures to be discovered. Along with the fish, there will be roughly 100 pieces of specifically commissioned professional art objects scattered along the riverbank for the festival.

Driggs, credited as the brainchild of this event, explained that it was modeled after successful clean-up events on the Oregon coast. There, volunteers were given trash bags and invited to scour the beaches for not only litter but also for glass floats made by local artists. The floats, they kept, but the trash was tossed.

With a $5,000 grant from 4Culture, Fall City Arts was able to negotiate with about 10 artists, for 10 pieces, and “they have all provided their artwork at a reduced rate,” Driggs said.

Snoqualmie Tribe wood carvers are also sponsors.

Participants will rediscover the river, which has been literally trashed by hundreds of visitors each summer. “We’re trying to get people to come down there, and see that it’s actually a really beautiful place,” Driggs said.

What to know

The Snoqualmie River Fish Festival is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, starting  at the Art Park in Fall City. Participants hunt for treasure while picking up trash. One treasure per hunter, please.

Follow the Festival on Facebook or at

Trash bags and rubber gloves will be provided.


Below, artistic pumpkins and leaf sculptures are among the treasures to be found during the Fish Festival hunt and river clean-up event.

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