The Evolution of Our Coastal Tradition

Our non-profit society began 30 years ago with a group of concerned citizens who wanted to create awareness about our pristine eco-system, the then endangered Grey Whale population, and our coastal traditions. And although the Grey Whales' numbers have increased, the celebration continues! Our festivities each spring are centered around the migration of these great ocean giants, from Mexico to the Artic - and from our shores you can witness these whales silently gliding past. 

A Chapter in the history of the Pacific Rim Whale Festival

Each year, the air is heavy with mist and an ethereal magic.

It’s the first Sunday of the Whale Festival, and it’s impossible to avoid the contagious energy of the crowd - mostly locals brushing elbows with visitors - spoons in hand, waiting for the next ladle-full of what could be the winning Chowder Chowdown concoction of the year! Eyeballing the crowd, I catch a wink of satisfaction from local west coast resident Brian Congdon. He’s between spoonfuls, comparing secretive chowder votes scrawled on a napkin with his grandkids.

Brian’s grin is widespread. He’s watched the Festivities unfold for the last 23 years. His family, his business, and Ucluelet - the community he calls home - have embraced and supported the Whale Festival from the beginning. In fact, the concept itself fell straight from Brian’s mouth at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in the mid eighties. As a pioneer for the whale-watching industry on the coast, Brian has been taking folks out on his zodiac since 1978. He heard of the celebrations off of Mexico and California coasts as the grey whales came past, and was all too familiar with the enthusiasm, awe & wonder that encounters with these incredible creatures could evoke. “Why not celebrate their annual return right here on Vancouver Island”, he thought. Through community collaboration, his idea was turned into action, and the Pacific Rim Whale Festival was born.

 The community hall clock tells me it’s time to head down to the lighthouse - if it’s anything like last year, there’ll be groups of migrating whales visible within a mile from shore - a few spouts, and maybe a breach again if I’m lucky. Sporting my gumboots, I cast my chowder vote on the way out the door. As I leave Brian kicking up his heels to the live maritime tunes, I feel renewed faith in the power of ideas! This just might be my favorite time of year.


We are digging into our roots, and welcome submissions of photos, stories, documents, and other yarns of the way it was and how it came to be. Contact us if you've got some PRWF history to share!