Now in its third year, the Healdsburg Wild Steelhead Festival aims to educate the community about its underwater members. Threatened by development of their native habitat, the population of steelhead trout in the Russian River watershed is dwindling where it once flourished.
Overly 60 sponsors have come forward to support the effort, a surprisingly varied group of local organizations that are nonetheless united by love of steelhead, whether for sport, cuisine or conservation.
Money raised from the nonprofit event, which is primarily supported by sponsorship, will pay for a restoration plan for Foss Creek, a tributary of the Russian River that runs through Healdsburg. But the troubling disappearance of steelhead isn’t limited to Healdsburg alone.
“Even though the festival is in Healdsburg, it brings attention to all the watersheds of Sonoma County,” says event organizer Liz Keeley.
Running Feb. 5&–7, the festival kicks off with a three-course seasonal meal prepared by chef Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen and guest speaker Jim Lichatowich, author of Salmon Without Rivers: A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis.
The dinner is followed on Saturday by a plethora of free activities at the Healdsburg plaza. Young, aspiring anglers can try their hand at the trout pond or decorate a cookie fish at the Costeaux French Bakery table. A live steelhead display—a fish tank as big as a room—offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with the threatened species. On Sunday, visitors are invited to truly plunge into the fish world by booking a guided fishing trip or sign up for a sustainable, steelhead-centric cooking class with Dustin Vallette at the acclaimed Relish Culinary Center. The cooking class will demonstrate how to select, handle, store and cook steelhead, and will conclude with a delicious seafood feast.
The Healdsburg Steelhead Festival runs Friday&–Sunday, Feb. 5&–7. Friday, Hotel Healdsburg, 25 Matheson St., Healdsburg. 6pm., $100. Saturday, Healdsburg Plaza, 10am&–4pm, Free. Sunday, Relish Culinary Center, 14 Matheson St., Healdsburg. 11am. $92. 707.484.6438.
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