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No harm, No fowl
With more than a decade of experience as the emcee of Port Orchard’s annual Seagull Calling Contest, Bryan Petro describes the festival well.
“It’s kind of hokey ... very Port Orchard,” he says with a wink.
“The seagull is a very ingenious animal,” Petro continues. “They’re survivors.”
He recounts how he was told back in the day that when the United States Navy and Air Force were looking to develop fighter jets and bomber planes, they studied the seagull intensively because of its impressive and innate ability to drop bombs.
Petro doesn’t quite fully commit one way or the other whether he’s serious or sarcastic, until a few minutes later.
“Those seagulls, they’re always flockin’ around,” he says, holding back a chuckle at the play on words, but soon erupting into a hearty belly laugh.
Every year the town gathers at Waterfront Park to caw and conquer at the beginning of each spring for the event organized by the Port Orchard Chamber. Contestants aim to elicit the largest number of seagulls to shore using both guttural bird-like shrieks and sounds and bribes like french fries and Cheetos. A panel of distinguished judges looks on with a discerning eye (and a hope for bribes themselves) to determine the top callers.
More so than just a contest, it’s become an institution.
An event so screwy that it’s downright fun, it’s the town festival equivalent to watching a screwball comedies like “Dumb and Dumber” or “Dodgeball” and laughing your head off.
But it’s also a see-and-be seen type of summertime shindig for which people always dress to impress.
“I wear my tux-seagull,” Petro said, snickering. “Tails with flip-flops... it’s a high class event here
in Port Orchard.”
Over its two decades of existence, the festival has been featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CBS’ Morning Show, and King-5’s Evening Magazine, in addition to Terry Bradshaw’s Most Exotic Games and a few other mainstream press veins.
This year’s event is billed as the world’s biggest, best (and possibly only) Seagull Calling Festival.
And they didn’t just make that up.
Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce executive director Coreen Haydock Johnson said she filed through pages and pages of Google and Yahoo online search engines looking for some other seagull calling festival elsewhere on the globe.
And she couldn’t find any.
That makes Port Orchard a fabulous destination for seagull-calling tourists.
The festival marks the figurative beginning of the port town’s summer tourism season, Johnson noted, while the day also signals the beginning of boating season as well as the second week of the summer-long Port Orchard Farmers Market.
“We’re trying to bring people in from out of town, whether it be Silverdale or Seattle,” Johnson said.
And with that thought in mind, the Chamber has worked to embolden the festival this year, adding to the annual Calling Contest by organizing a “Seagull” hot wing cook-off and a concert from surf-style band SPF-50. Downtown businesses are also in the mix. Bay Street merchants will be hosting a sidewalk sale that day while The Orchard Theatre, the movie theater on Bay Street, will be showing the Alfred Hitchcock classic “The Birds” in honor of the festival at 7 p.m. May 6.
Also on the day of the festival May 3, Port Orchard Chamber Ambassador Ashley Olson said Port Orchard pirates might be making an appearance. Argh. WU