The first time Tri-Cities children were invited to release 5,000 chum fry into Noons Creek, the Soviet Union was still in its last throes of existence.
Twenty-seven years later, this weekend's Fingerling Festival saw 30,000 chum slipped from white buckets into the babbling waters of downtown Port Moody, once again marking an annual community ritual — or as executive member of the Noons Creek Hatchery Dave Bennie described it amidst the melee Saturday, "The hatchery's a gong show."
When Bennie looks around these days, he sees a lot of familiar faces.
"People who grew up coming to the hatchery now bring their own kids here," he said. "It’s an education."
But connections to Noons Creek Hatchery now stretch beyond the Tri-Cities: Bennie says the organization brings in kids on educational trips as far away as an Indigenous daycare on the Downtown Eastside.
Individual families have turned the festival into their own little pilgrimage, too.
Stephen Yu, who lives on the west side of Vancouver, has made a point of coming out every year since his three-year-old son, Conrad, was born.
"It’s about teaching conservation," said the young father. “It’s meaningful."