Music on the Estuary Brings a Party to Hood Canal

By Molly Walsh

Belfair – home to a population of about 4,000 – boasts quite an art scene, with the Salmon Center being no exception. As the headquarters for non-profit organization Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, the 38-acre Salmon Center is a certified organic farm and hub of environmental education and art for North Mason County. The center will ring in the summer season with the annual fundraising festival Music on the Estuary (MOTE) on June 22, with all proceeds benefitting the Salmon Center’s Fish Bowl Amphitheater project.

As one of 14 fisheries enhancement groups throughout Washington state, the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group specializes in habitat restoration, eco system research and environmental education. This can take the form of elementary programs like Salmon in the Classroom, where students can learn more about salmon lifecycles, in addition to salmon research like field studies and data collection on salmon habitat.

The 38-acre Salmon Center in Belfair.

Since the acquisition of the 38-acre organic farm in 2009, the Salmon Center’s location on the Union River Estuary has enabled the organization to host summer camps, water quality education and recreational events like yoga classes and art performances. Since the Salmon Center is also a working farm, a community garden is an invitation for community members to harvest seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs. The farms brings a further educational opportunity for the organization by serving as source of knowledge on operating an organic farm responsibly while bordering a water source.

As a non-profit, the Salmon Enhancement Group secures funding from grants in addition to donations. These dollars go to fund the center’s operations, with the group’s current main project being the construction of an amphitheater, named the Fish Bowl, located at the Salmon Center. Still in the conceptual design phase, the amphitheater will expand the organization’s services to provide more youth programs and artistic opportunities to the Belfair and greater North Mason region.

“The idea is we’re going to make this space to kind of expand our education programs and summer camps here. We even have speakers and presentations at our location,” said Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group communications manager, Alexandra Ehrich. “So, it will just kind of open up a lot more opportunities for education, even for a place for the community to come together for other performing arts and recreation.”

Belfair does not currently have a dedicated performing arts venue, so an amphitheater would not just be the host of Salmon Center events, but other community driven performances, as well. “Belfair’s kind of a small community, so we’re hoping to provide this space for them,” explained Mendy Harlow, executive director of Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.

Attendees soak up the sun at last year’s MOTE concert.

To help raise the $30,000 needed to start the permitting and construction process on the amphitheater, the Salmon Center began hosting MOTE. MOTE is an outdoor concert overlooking the water, beginning at 1 p.m. Intended for all ages, the Salmon Center will be teeming with local artists, food vendors, games and a beer garden in addition to the five bands performing throughout the day. All five acts are from the South Sound region and range from rock n’ roll to folk to bluegrass.

Not just a fundraiser, MOTE is also an opportunity for community members to visit the Salmon Center for the first time and learn more about the organization’s work.

“It’s always so much fun whenever we have an event to see all the new people that come out to our location that didn’t even know that we were here or existed,” said Ehrich. “So, we are able to reach a bunch of new people that get to find the space and our location and all the other amazing things that we offer here at the Salmon Center, so it’s really cool to connect with more people at these events.”

Fun in the sun at last year’s MOTE concert.

On the set list is folk band The Old Time Fiddlers, who are slated to host a music workshop after their set. “They’re going to let kids and other folks try out their instruments, talk to them a little bit about music and things like that,” said Ehrich.

Banjo Lacey will bring in elements of bluegrass and folk while Olympia-based Hopkins Switch will add some Americana with a side of blues to their set. Shannon and Tim are folk rock singer songwriters. Shelton natives The Varmints will bring rock n’ roll to the stage to round out the schedule.

Taking place the day after the summer solstice, Harlow is most looking forward to MOTE as a venue for community members to congregate as a new season begins.

“We strive to be a place where community can come and get together for music and for different art opportunities,” explained Harlow. “We have yoga and things like that, so we’re really kind of like a community center. And so, I’m really looking forward to having the community all together and have folks enjoy the sunshine on Hood Canal.”


Music on the Estuary by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group


1 – 8 p.m. Saturday, June 22


The Salmon Center,

600 NE Roessel RD, Belfair


Pre-sale Tickets: $15;

At the Door: $20;

Kids 15 and younger: $8


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