It’s not every day Galesburg officially honors the efforts of people 3,000 miles away, but with the dubbing of Sept. 21 as Wild Alaskan Salmon Day in Galesburg it seems a space for such an effort has opened.
“The City of Galesburg is now permanently linked to hard-working fishing families in Sitka and Juneau, Alaska,” Galesburg Mayor John Pritchard said on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Lake Storey, where the Sitka Salmon Bake took place. He expressed a thankfulness for the event and its success, saying that the event “brings people together, as we can see, [from] the hundred or so people gathered here today.”
The “hundred or so” people in attendance seemed to agree. Comments about the perfect breeze and sun abounded, as did praise for the music, provided by Professor of Anthropology Jon Wagner and his band, Hammer and Pick Trio. Attendees, Knox and Galesburg community members alike, stood in the sizable food line, snaking from the ticketing table past the salmon sausage grill, salmon mac & cheese and kimchi-style spicy cole slaw provided by Q’s Café, and around the bend to the Baked station, where fish tacos, fries and salmon burgers were being handed out constantly.
“I’m happy to see kids and dogs running around,” sophomore Victoria Baldwin said. “It feels much more like a community than most Knox events I’ve been to … I think it should be a [semi-yearly] thing.”
Sophomore Nicci Hinton said this event had sparked her interest about Sitka Salmon. “Why Galesburg?” she asked.
That question can be answered by Eric Ballard ‘11, a Knox alum and co-owner of Sitka Salmon Shares.
“Especially in the Midwest, where there’s not a good source of high-quality seafood, we thought it was a good avenue to bring a product people want but don’t have access to and do it in a way that’s best for the quality of the fish, the payment of the fishermen and then also being able to bring that community-supported model to the Midwest,” he said.
Ballard was thrilled with the event and with everybody “sitting around, eating delicious salmon … raving about it. The music’s great, it’s a nice cool day, the breeze is good, I’d say it’s a success.”
As for the planning and organization, he cited Knox’s Sustainability Chair for Student Senate and Sitka Salmon Shares employee senior Nora McGinn as “the brains behind this event,” organizing everything with the owners of Q’s and Baked.
“She did the organizing, I did some of the heavy lifting,” Ballard said.
McGinn became involved with Sitka Salmon through Ballard while at Knox, and was instrumental in putting the salmon bake together, reaching out to the Knox campus and collaborating with Kevin Prow, owner of Baked and Walt McAllister of Q’s.
“I’ve been planning and working with Walt and Kevin. Really, they’re the stars of this event. I’ve just been doing things to make sure people are here and happy.”
“Nora just came and asked me if I’d do it. She’s a good customer, and you’ve gotta like Sitka and what they want to do,” McAllister said. “And they said they’d give me the salmon, so I’m not gonna say no to that.”