The Coho Festival in West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park is one of the North Shore‘s main festivals, taking place every fall on the second Sunday in September.
The Coho Festival took place virtually in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was online again in 2021, from September 1st to October 1st.
2022 festival details are to be confirmed. Its date though for this year is September 11th.
The Coho Festival
In 2019 the Coho Festival took place from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday, September 8. This was also Grandparents’ Day and so it made an especially great destination to take the multi-generational family. The event took place on September 13th in 2020, which was again Grandparents’ Day.
It’s a nice festival honouring the Coho salmon as they make their way back from the ocean to spawn in the Capilano River.
The Coho Festival is an especially good time to visit Ambleside as the place is full of people, live music, community organization displays and hundreds of people lining up for barbecued salmon for lunch.
What’s more – there is usually a beer garden on the sand at the beach, which makes this one of the few days of the year that you can drink alcohol legally at Ambleside. Even on a regular day, Ambleside is one of the Lower Mainland’s most beautiful beaches.
The 2021 Event
The Coho Festival in 2021 was an online-only event which meant that most of the regular activities were not able to take place. Activities that still happened included a virtual Coho run/walk, a virtual swim, and a treasure hunt.
For both the run/walk and swim, participants had to register on the Coho Festival website. There was a fee to take part and all proceeds went to the Coho Society of the North Shore who used them to help various local environmental groups.
There were prizes available for those who competed, with weekly prize draws over the course of the festival.
The treasure hunt was a collaboration with the North Shore Culture Compass. There were four different self-guided paths that participants walked or biked down looking for clues. There were prizes available for those who completed their hunt.
For details on what the Coho Festival is like when it’s able to take place in person, keep reading below.
When the event is able to take place in person, there is live music in the park at the Coho Festival. A few years ago the headliner band was Chilliwack – the popular Lower Mainland group that produced numerous Canadian and international hits in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 2019 highlights of the Coho Festival performance schedule included the following (other years should be comparable):
- 11:00 am – Coho Running Race Breakfast & Award Ceremony
- 12:00 pm – Music with Cannery Row (New Orleans-style Blues)
- 1:00 pm – Welcoming Speech by a Squamish Nation leader and the traditional “Blessing of the Salmon” Ceremony
- 2:00 pm – Music with Mostly Marley (a local Reggae band)
- 3:10 pm – Music with Adam Woodall
- 4:30 pm – Music with Doug and The Slugs (a Canadian band with 1980’s hits that included “Too Bad”, “Making It Work” and “Tomcat Prowl”
- 6:00 pm – Closing Remarks
Coho Festival Salmon BBQ
A big part of the Coho Festival is the salmon barbecue. It usually runs from 11:15 am until 5:30 pm and proceeds from sales benefit wild salmon habitats on the North Shore.
In 2018 a BBQ salmon plate cost $15 and included a wild Coho salmon fillet, salad and corn on the cob. There were also grilled salmon sandwiches for $10 as well as hot dogs ($5), corn on the cob ($3), side salads ($3) and non-alcoholic beverages ($2). Beer and wine were also available for $7 each. Prices for future events will hopefully be similar.
The Coho Run
Another element of the Coho Festival is the annual Coho Run. It is a 14-km race starting at 9 am on the same Sunday after Labour Day as the festival. The run starts at Kitsilano in Vancouver and ends at the beach at Ambleside on the North Shore.
The route goes along the False Creek waterfront and over the Burrard Street Bridge from Kitsilano Beach. Participants will then run along the seawall through Stanley Park and across the Lions Gate Bridge before finishing at Ambleside Beach.
Registration for the run costs between $50 and $70 depending on when you register. The fee includes a souvenir t-shirt, breakfast, prizes and more.
For further information on the race, check out the Coho Run‘s official web page.
The Coho Swim
An additional component of the festival is the Coho Swim. The swim follows either a 1.5 or 3 km route along Ambleside Beach. Registration for the swim costs between $40 and $70 and includes a t-shirt, swim cap, breakfast and other perks. (Note: Swimmers are required to wear wetsuits.)
Check out the Coho Swim‘s official page for more information.
The Coho Festival is a “near zero-waste event” where most materials used are recyclable, reusable or compostable. Participants are also encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transit as much as possible (although many people still drive).
Funds raised from the Coho Festival every year go to the Coho Society to support salmon habitat rejuvenation projects in the area.
For more information, check out the Coho Festival Society website.