Tacoma Ocean Fest New free festival to celebrate and protect the ocean

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Arts, sciences and water fun come together at the Foss Waterway Seaport June 10

A brand-new festival will take Tacoma’s waterfront by storm on June 10 by bringing together arts, sciences and water sports to help the city celebrate the ocean, learn about its threats and get inspired to protect it.

Held on the internationally-celebrated World Oceans Day weekend, Ocean Fest is a free festival at the Foss Waterway Seaport that features local and international artists, filmmakers, musicians, dancers and even an aerialist to highlight the beauty and fragility of the ocean and its creatures – especially those in the Salish Sea/Puget Sound. 

Artists include Shelton eco-sculptor Barbara de Pirro with “Kelp Forest,” a giant installation of ghostly strands of woven white reclaimed plastic bottles, and Hawaii surf photographer Mike Coots, a surfer, shark attack survivor and shark advocate. Coots’ breathtaking images will headline an exhibit that highlights the beauty of sharks, and speaks out against the barbaric finning that is sending many species close to extinction.

Keynote speaker Annie Crawley, a Seattle-based international underwater filmmaker and environmentalist, will have stunning ocean imagery on the walls and screen. Local youth will see their poetry and film honored as part of the Ocean Fest Youth Story Contest, and the Seaport’s own science and history exhibits will be on view. 

Other artists include Gretchen Yanover (electric cello), soprano Erin Calata, singer/songwriter Kim Archer, Jeff Brahe on mbira (an African thumb “piano”), Tacoma City Ballet’s “Whale Song,” T.U.P.A.C. dancers performing West African-ballet fusion, flamenco artist Marisela Fleites, Samoan dancers and Deanna Riley on aerial hoop. A film stage will loop local ocean-themed short film. There will even be scuba virtual reality, courtesy of Cascade Game Foundry. All artists are from around Puget Sound.

The “learn” and “protect” components of the festival will be along the esplanade, where 25 booths will feature local and regional non-profits, government agencies and individuals who work to protect our waters. These include Citizens for a Healthy Bay, Surfrider Foundation, NOAA Fisheries, Puget Sound Partnership and science departments from the University of Puget Sound, University of Washington-Tacoma and more.  Ken Campbell, a Tacoma kayaker, will bring a craft he made from recycled plastic bottles. 

All of these knowledge-vendors will offer festival-goers a chance to learn about the ocean environment and the threats to its health, such as plastic and chemical pollution, overfishing and climate change. Fun hands-on activities like beach-in-a-box, looking at plastics through microscopes, crafts and games will underscore the environmental message.

Finally, down on the dock will be a chance for festival-goers to have fun on the water, with paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats and even a dragon boat available to try out. 

As founder and director, I think that this is a unique festival for Tacoma. The goal is to make people think differently about the ocean, and to care enough about it to change what they do. It could be as simple as giving up plastic straws, or driving less. The ocean needs our help – and it will take all of us. That’s what Ocean Fest is about – inspiring our imagination and empathy through the arts, informing us through science, and showing us how to take action. And just having fun on the water!

I was inspired to create the festival by my 13-year-old son, an avid swimmer, diver and environmentalist. It’s hard to know what any one person can do to help save the ocean. But getting people to care about it through a festival is something I could do.

In addition, the Ocean Fest day will begin with a beach cleanup from 9-10 a.m. on the beach at Jack Hyde Park, 2201 Ruston Way, Tacoma. South Sound Surfrider Foundation, Citizens for a Healthy Bay and Eco-Pride are partnering on the clean-up. They’ll take collected trash to the festival for a surprise activity.

Festival-goers are encouraged to bike, walk, take transit or paddle into the festival, and afterwards are invited to “paddle out” down to the Museum of Glass, where partner festival 70-48 will kick off its long-distance human-powered paddle race that evening.

Tacoma Ocean Fest is supported by a City of Tacoma Make a Splash grant and a Sustainability Small Grant, as well as a SPARK grant from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. The Foss Waterway Seaport is the venue host sponsor, and Tacoma Sunrise Rotary is sponsoring the Youth Ocean Story Contest. Other in-kind sponsors include The Grand Cinema and Round Table Pizza. Partners include Tacoma Public Libraries, Waka Waka Studios and Write253.

For more information, see tacomaoceanfest.org.

WHAT: Tacoma Ocean Fest – free to the public

WHEN/WHERE: 9-10 a.m. Beach clean-up at Jack Hyde Park, 2201 Ruston Way, Tacoma; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ocean Fest at Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma

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