SPOTLIGHT: Welcome the Whales Festival in April

Posted in Feature, Festivals, Spotlight

The Welcome the Whales Festival, parade, whale watch and educational activities happen through April on the island.

Langley is the perfect spot from which to see “Patch” the Gray whale as he swims with his pod along Saratoga Passage. Join the Welcome the Whales Festival Parade on Saturday, April 20 and ring the whale bell if you see him!

Patch is also known by whale watchers of Puget Sound as #49 and is part of a small group of resident Gray whales that usually arrives in the region in early March. He was first identified by Cascadia Research of Olympia in our local waters in 1991 and is a favorite of many local whale watchers, as he is easily identifiable by the large white patch on his right side, back toward his flukes, as well as white patches on the underside of his flukes. Patch and the pod hangs around to feed on ghost shrimp along the mud shores of Saratoga Passage until the end of May or early June.

The 10th annual Welcome the Whales Festival in Langley honors the arrival of resident Gray whales to Whidbey Island. In greater Puget Sound, there are about 12 to 50 Grays spotted by watchers each year. Along the Pacific Coast is a population of 250 Gray Whales known as the Pacific Northwest feeding aggregation (or seasonal residents).  Here’s a schedule of all the events happening to welcome the Gray whales to Whidbey Island in April.

Tuesday, April 9 and Thursday, April 11Science While Sipping” talks:

Welcome the Whales Weekend is part of Whidbey Island’s “Earth & Ocean Month,” through April and Orca Network offers two “Science While Sipping” talks about Saratoga Gray Whales at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9 at Flyer’s Brewery in Oak Harbor and at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11 at Greenbank Bar & Grille. These fun but informative talks offer a chance to chat with Orca Network about local whales in a casual setting, while enjoying drinks and food at these local restaurants.

Saturday, April 20 Educational displays, activities, costume making, parade and presentations:
Take part in hands-on educational displays, costume-making and kid’s activities at Langley Methodist Church Fellowship Hall at Third Street and Anthes Avenue, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 20. Staging for the “critter parade” begins at 1 p.m. at Anthes Avenue and Second Street in Langley. The parade will begin at 1:30 p.m. going up Second Street and down First Street, and end at the Langley Waterfront Park with a blessing for the whales by Windwalker Taibi, followed by music and a celebration on the beach, while watching for gray whales in Saratoga Passage.
From 3 to 5 p.m. presentations will be held at the Langley Methodist Church, with Orca Network providing an update on North Puget Sound gray whales and sharing slides of a recent trip to San Ignacio Lagoon. Featured speaker Dr. Sue Moore, biological oceanographer with NOAA/Fisheries Office of Science & Technology, will follow with “Gray Whales as Sentinels of Climate Change.” Dr. Moore has 35 years research experience focused on the ecology, bioacoustics and natural history of whales and dolphins, with much of her work directed towards cetaceans in the Pacific Arctic region.

Sunday, April 21  Whale watching!:
Welcome the Whales continues with an Orca Network Cruise aboard the Mystic Sea
departing from the Langley Marina at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, April 21 and returning at 2:30 p.m. Orca Network staff and naturalists on board will share knowledge about gray whales and other marine mammals. A glass of “Orca Wine” is included in the ticket cost of $65 for adults; the cost for children is $45. Proceeds from the whale watch cruise support Orca Network programs and educational activities. Tickets must be purchased in advance at:

Artist-designed Whale flags
Celebrate the arrival of gray whales with a custom-designed “Welcome the Whales” flags for your home, garden or business, featuring an illustration by Freeland artist Mary Jo Oxrieder of our favorite whale “Patch.” Bring your flag to the parade in Langley to help us welcome the whales to Whidbey! Flags are available for purchase at the Orca Network at and will also be available for sale during the festival.

Land-based whale watching spots in Langley:

• The sidewalk along Cascade Avenue in front of the Saratoga Inn.

• The Langley Marina boardwalk

• Boy and Dog Park on First Street

• Seawall Park on the Langley waterfront shoreline

Whale Trail Designation

Because of Langley’s perfect location for viewing whales from the shore, the city is on The Whale Trail, a series of marked locations around northwest waters where the public may view orcas, other marine mammals and wildlife. By Mayor’s proclamation, Langley will be recognized as an official Whale Trail city on Welcome the Whales Day.

Welcome the Whales Festival and activities are sponsored by the Orca Network, Homeplace Special Care, and Langley Chamber of Commerce.
For more information, go to: or


Leave a Reply