GALLERY: Dana Point Celebrates 51st Annual Whale Festival

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By Breeana Greenberg

Hundreds of people gathered at Dana Point last weekend for the 51st Annual Whale Festival, which featured many activities and events including the Magical Migration Parade, all celebrating the annual gray whale migration.

Saturday March 5th festival-goers lined the sidewalk along Island Way as marching bands, classic cars, military units, floats and giant balloons paraded. As this year’s Grand Marshal, Jean Pierre “The Fly” Van Swae led the procession through Dana Point Harbor.

The opening day of the festival was particularly windy, as those holding the strings of the giant whale, turtle and shark balloons fought the wind to keep the balloons close to the ground.

Throughout the weekend, festival-goers embarked on special whale-watching excursions, competed in cardboard boat and dinghy races, browsed works by local artists, played live music and participated in educational tours and lectures.

The weekend’s events kicked off just before sunset on Friday, March 4, when members of the Acjachemen Indigenous Nation and the Dana Point Surf Club gathered on the beach behind the Ocean Institute to bless the gray whales that migrate beyond Dana Point.

As the winds picked up, prompting a high surf warning, seven Surf Club members braved the waves for a special paddle during the Whale Welcome Ceremony.

After the ceremony, Donna Kalez of Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching and Gisele Anderson of Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari announced efforts to keep the whales safe and the waterways clean.

In 2020, the duo announced that the Global Cetacean Alliance had named Dana Point a Whale Heritage Site. Dana Point is the first, and currently only, town in North America to be certified as a Whale Heritage Site.

To maintain the designation, the Dana Point Whale Watching Corporation has developed initiatives to maintain the waterways and educate boaters about whale safety.

“A whaling heritage site is an exceptional place where cetaceans, whales, dolphins and porpoises are embraced through the cultural, economic, social and political life of associated communities, and where people and cetaceans authentically coexist. and respectful,” Kalez said.

Dana Point Whale Watching developed the Be Whale Safe campaign to teach boaters how to be safe around whales. Dana Wharf and Captain Dave’s are also participating in the search.

The company has also adopted a freeway strip along Interstate 5. There will be six signs placed along the freeway to inform drivers that Dana Point is the Whale Watching Capital of the World, including the cost pays for litter to be picked up along the road. Highway.

The company has also led an effort to report and recover balloons at sea. More than 1,500 balloons have been recovered over the past year through this effort, according to Kalez.

Dr. Ari Friedlaender, cetacean specialist, was also present after the ceremony on Friday evening to give a lecture on whales and their impact on their environment.

Photos: Breeana Greenberg and Alan Gibby

During the festival, Dana Point Whale Watching donated cardboard water boxes to reduce plastic water bottle waste.

Just before the Saturday morning parade, competitors from the Carboard Classic and Dinghy Dash gathered at Baby Beach early to build their makeshift boats.

Performance Paddling won the business barge division with iHeartYoga in second and Ocean Academy USA in third. The Women’s Sailing Association OC won the Judge’s Choice award and the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association won the People’s Choice award.

In the Dana Point Harbor parking lot, visitors could stroll through the Whales, Tails and Ales street fair, which featured local artisans and dog-friendly vendors, as well as a dog costume contest, craft beer and inflatable play structures.

There, art students from Dana Hills High displayed their works, including pottery, photography, drawings and paintings.

The Clam Chowder Cook-Off also took place, with Coastal Kitchen winning the People’s Choice Award, while The Point Restaurant & Bar won the Mayor’s Choice Award. Wind & Sea Restaurant won the award for best stand decorations.

The festivities continued on Sunday, March 7, when families had the chance to dig for treasures and raise money for various children’s charities during the Diamond Dig at Baby Beach.

In the afternoon, Drea Sheva, Neon Nation and Who’s Zeppelin played classic ’80s music while raising money for the Dana Hills High School swim program. The groups rocked atop a floating stage on the water at Baby Beach.

Nearby, a barbecue was served and a Spirit Garden for ages 21 and up raised funds for the Marine Corps League South Coast Detachment.

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Prior to joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance journalist for the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at [email protected]

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