The smell of the Duwamish River meeting the salty sea mixes with the scents of traditional Mexican food. On stage, Aztec dancers, adorned in spectacular bird feather head dresses, dance to the drumbeat that thumps throughout the Duwamish River Festival. Bernardo Serna and I sit in the shade, avoiding the harsh sunlight, under our Food Lifeline tent amongst several other local organizations involved with the Duwamish River and its surrounding communities. We’ve set up a table with sheets and sheets covering all our hunger relief programs and volunteer opportunities. As we chat with members of the local community, we get distracted as the beats and rhythms of different bands and dance troupes from cultures around the globe perform a few tents away. The atmosphere is one of celebration and camaraderie, and perfectly represents the reasons for situating the Hunger Solution Center in such a lively and diverse, and caring community.
The festivities start at around midday, first with an opening ceremony by the Duwamish Native American Tribe, the traditional guardians of the Duwamish River. The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and Technical Advisory group put on this festival every year as a way to raise awareness for their initiatives to clean up the Duwamish, one of the most polluted waterways in the country. By engaging and highlighting the diversity of their community and its connection to the River, the coalition is able reach a much larger swath of local people while at the same time generating interest in the health of the river. After the initial ceremony, the stage is visited by various cultural dance troupes and bands, including Mexican folk dancers, Khmer (Cambodian) performers, Aztec warriors, and Somali youth performers. The energy and enthusiasm the dancers bring to their performances has everyone in attendance in a positive mood. Many festival goers talk with us about how important the work Food Lifeline does for this community, and by the end of the day, we’ve completely run out of volunteer sign up forms.
The heat of this sweltering day does little to hamper the spirits of the festival goers, and throughout the day people from all walks of life, young and old, dance to the music of the world. Although there remains much work to do in order to bring the Duwamish River back to what it once was, the optimism of today is sure to translate to optimism moving forward.
Special thanks to John Harrison of Blue Sky Hill for the amazing photos!