This quilt was made by former PCWF Board Member, Cheryl Bradkin, with shirts (donated by Board Member, Benye Weber) to show the art work used for the first 20 years of the revival of the Coupeville Water Festival

Although the May 2021 in-person Penn Cove Water Festival has been cancelled, in its place we will have a Virtual Water Festival event during Orca Month in June, partnering with Orca Network.

(See Penn Cove Water Festival for details.)

2016 Penn Cove Water Festival Poster

This design by Roger Purdue was donated to the Penn Cove Water Festival by his widow, Sara. We are proud to continue to honor Roger in this way.

Bear is the protector of the animal kingdom. In Haida culture is referred to as "Elder Kinsman" and was treated like a high-ranking guest when killed. Eagle down was sprinkled before it was brought in to the tribe to display respect.

In West Coast culture, there are several legends telling of a Chief's daughter being abducted by a bear. The high ranking woman had been out in the woods picking berries and stepped on some Bear dung and began to curse out loud, insulting their cleanliness. Two Bears nearby heard her and decided they would not tolerate such insolence. They felt the disrespectful woman had to be punished. To do this, one Bear transformed himself into a very handsome man who approached this woman, and seductively lured her to accompany him to his mountain home. When she did, she fell in love with him and became partially Bear-like herself.

She later married him and had twin cubs. Their children were born as little creatures that resembled bears that could metamorphose themselves into human form like their father.

The woman's brothers eventually found her and, in an unequal contest, killed her husband. They returned to the village but the two bear sons did not feel comfortable and eventually left to return to the forest. All Bear Clan members are descended from this woman and her two sons.

Because of this, it is believed that there is a bear within all of us and that we must come to terms with this in our lives.

Frog is revered for his adaptability, knowledge and power to traverse worlds and inhabit both natural and supernatural realms. Frog is a creature of great importance in Northwest Coast art and culture. As a creature that lives in two worlds, water and land, Frogs are primary spirit helpers of shamans. A great communicator, Frog often represents the common ground or voice of the people.

Frog's songs are believed to contain divine power and magic. When shown in art as touching or sharing his tongue with another creature, Frog represents an exchange of knowledge and power. Frog designs are commonly used as decorative elements, so that Frog faces, for example, peek out from another creature's ears, mouth or hands. In symbolic terms the emergence of frog from these orifices may represent an eruption of magic and unseen interior and other worlds.

Frog is associated with copper and great wealth. Legendary Haida princes are said to have attended feasts wearing necklace chains made of living Frogs. The Haida carved Frog on house pole to prevent them from falling over. They also included them in many other carvings, from feast bowls to totem poles. Frogs on Haida Gwaii, B.C.'S Queen Charlotte Islands, are actually northern toads. One Haida name for Frog (toad) is "crab of the woods".

Many legends are attached to this whimsical little animal. The Tlingit of Alaska tell of its distribution in a story about a chief's daughter who made fun of Frog. Frog then lured her into his lake in human form, and married her. Her angry parents drained the lake and scattered Frogs in every direction. Some BC First nations told that Frog announces the end of the winter dance season. It is said that when the last snowflakes of winter touch the ground they turn into Frogs. Then the Native people know that there is only six weeks until the Salmon begin returning to the rivers and summer begins.


Message from Susan Berta, who has been with the Penn Cove Water Festival since itís revival in 1992. As Director of the WSU/Island County Beach Watchers, Susan was instrumental in reviving this historic Festival.

We have a dozen canoe clubs from the US and Canada registered for the races already, with more expected - all with 11 and 6 person canoes as well as several dozen single/double canoes - the races are going to be fantastic!

As I look back on 25 years of the Water Festival and canoe races, what touches me most deeply is seeing the young folks in the "Jr. Bucks" races from the early years of our Coupeville race, who are now parents racing in the adult races, with their young kids racing in the Jr Bucks races. I learned early on how important the canoe races are to these families - they spend their entire summers traveling across the Pacific Northwest from race to race each weekend, and spend months training in cold waters before the racing season begins. It is an important part of their culture, and especially for the youth, it provides a healthy, family, cultural event in their life, carrying on this long time tradition.

I have felt honored to have so many canoe clubs join us each year for canoe races on Penn Cove, where their Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers came to race, and where their ancestors came in their canoes to camp and gather food, fish and hunt. We are the only non-tribal sponsored race in the canoe race circuit, and we have had a lot of help along the way from canoe captains and tribal cultural directors, to help us learn the ropes and continue this tradition begun so many years ago in Coupeville.

I have a lot of appreciation for all the individuals and organizations that have made the Penn Cove Water Festival possible, and who have kept this tradition alive for 25 years, and hope it lives on for at least another 25!

-Susan Berta


Benye Weber, PCWF Board Member, has been active in many roles for the past 25 years and is currently Coordinator for Public Awareness. She has been supported in all aspects by her husband John.


Lou LaBombard has been working with Penn Cove Water Festival since 1992 as Native American Advisor. He has been doing a special Storytelling event the night before as well as during the Festivals each year (see Special Events page).


Race Announcers: Jim Hillaire, a Lummi Elder, and Jim Freeman, Columnist, have been with the Water Festival since at lease 1995 (when this photo was taken). Everyone enjoys The Jims, as we lovingly refer to them!