Granted, the ones most immediately returning will be eight six-foot trout sculptures painted by S.B. artists, but these mark the first annual migration of the Santa Barbara Steelhead Festival. It’s a celebration both of Oncorhynchus mykiss itself and the efforts to make Santa Barbara waters more hospitable to this delicious but endangered fish, which has declined in numbers due to destruction of its habitat and obstruction of its migration pathways with dams and bridges. The event’s planners, S.B.’s Community Environmental Council, hope to draw attention to the steelhead’s plight with this event.
Artists are hard at work on their steelhead sculptures, which will premiere on Friday, February 17 at the Faulkner Gallery — in the S.B. Public Library’s main branch — before being put on public display along State Street. Kim Snyder, whose painted steelhead will illustrate the natural and man-made barriers the fish must overcome, said she felt the project will let people realize their impact on the species. “My original concept was to show the interesting life cycle of this fish … so people can be more aware of what’s going on with it,” she said. The pieces will swim along State Street through April, much in the tradition of Chicago’s famed Cows on Parade exhibit of 1999.
To the average Santa Barbara resident, however, the festival means more than just meeting a large ceramic steelhead on the way to lunch. The event will also include a 5K Walk/Run on February 26, followed by an all-day music festival at the Santa Barbara Zoo. The festival will also feature a three-day conference with the California Salmonid Restoration Federation at the Veterans’ Memorial Building. For more info, see sbsteelheadfest.org.