Monterey’s Whalefest going virtual this year

Peninsula Premier Admin

MONTEREY — Whalefest Monterey has been held on the Fisherman’s Wharf since 2010, giving participants a chance to go out for spins on the fireboat, enjoy live music and watch abalone sea snails race. But with COVID-19 cases on the rise locally, packing the thousands of visitors Whalefest attracts onto the wharf is just not an option.

So, the Whalefest is going virtual.

“We’ve learned more this year than we ever thought we were capable of,” said Whalefest Monterey chair Mary Alice Fettis. “I mean, we were never in the business of making a TV show.”

From Jan. 26-29, the Whalefest will be live-streamed for two hours starting at 6:30 p.m. Links to watch are at Afterward, the videos will be posted to the festival’s YouTube page.

Because of the COVID-19 safety guidelines, this year’s Monterey Whalefest will be online only. (Monterey Herald file)

Planning for Whalefest is a “year-round job” according to Fettis. The committee had just wrapped up from their 2020 event when the pandemic hit. Yet, even as cases began to rise the idea of not going forward with Whalefest never crossed the team’s mind.

“We’ve been dedicated to this educational event for 11 years and we don’t want COVID to get in the way,” says Fettis.

When it became clear the virus would not be gone in just a few weeks, they began to toy with the idea of going virtual. Fettis says it was May when the thought first crossed their minds.

By September, they had gotten to work asking the exhibitors and symposium speakers to send videos to stream in place of live talks and demonstrations.

At home, participants will be able to follow along with tutorials, such as scrimshaw making — a type of engraving art associated with whalers. The live music which would typically play over the course of the festival will instead be featured on the stream overlaid with videos from whale watches.

Multiple speakers from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are scheduled to present at the virtual symposium, including the new acting superintendent, Kevin Grant. One talk will feature marine scientists describing an encounter with a white killer whale. Exhibitors from Elkhorn Slough will use a microscope on camera to show viewers microscopic organisms that feed a variety of crabs and whales.

Maris Sidenstecker, who co-founded Save the Whales in 1977, has been presenting at Whalefest since it began.

Every year, her life-size inflatable humpback whale named Dee attracts a long line of curious visitors on the Wharf. There, they could crawl inside the 43-foot long replica to get a look at a whale’s internal organs. Dee is also an anti-pollution ambassador, as onlookers are shown a demonstration of what happens when a whale swallows a bag of plastic garbage.

This year Sidenstecker is giving Whalefest attendees a peek at Dee virtually.

“It’s a huge change for all of us,” Sidenstecker says of her and the other long-time exhibitors who “thrive” on the typical in-person interaction of Whalefest. Despite the big adjustment, “I think everyone is doing an amazing job on quickly moving over into this format.”

Sidenstecker has a one-minute video of Dee and her internal organs lined up for this year’s Whalefest. Currently, she is working on a longer video for kids’ distance learning.

“What we’re still working on is the hands-on portion,” she says. “We’re trying to make them as exciting as we can, without the kids being able to touch.”

While the event, which Fettis describes as “an educational event dressed up to look like fun” won’t be quite the same this year, she is still hopeful for a good turnout.

“Our reach is going to be very different this year,” she says. By going fully online, “we’re able to reach people from all over the world.”

Ultimately, Fettis says they don’t know what to expect for this year.

Even through the pandemic, Fettis says, the team kept their “eye on the goal” to ensure COVID-19 wouldn’t prevent the festival from occurring.

“It’s been an exciting learning curve. Our passion for the Whalefest is what kept us going.”

Contributed by local news sources

Next Post

Seaside, United Way team up on Accessory Dwelling Unit Workshop

SEASIDE — For those interested in starting an accessory dwelling unit project, the city of Seaside and United Way Monterey County will present a workshop providing an opportunity primarily for Seaside homeowners, but open to others, to learn how to navigate a project with the city. “We’re recommending that Seaside […]