Arts and Entertainment

HIDDEN KITSAP | Big time community at small town salmon bake

Last year, the annual Fathers’ Day Salmon Bake served more than 800 pounds of salmon smoked over alder and fir coals.  - Courtesy Photo/Friends of the Manchester Library
Last year, the annual Fathers’ Day Salmon Bake served more than 800 pounds of salmon smoked over alder and fir coals.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/Friends of the Manchester Library

Manchester Friends of the Library host annual Father’s Day Salmon Bake June 21.

While the unincorporated South Kitsap town of Manchester has no mayor or city council and a downtown core that stretches just two blocks, the place harbors an extreme spirit of community.

Each year that spirit is on full display, as the fish are put on to fry, at the town’s annual Father’s Day Salmon Bake.

“Of course, we’re counting on the same kind of sun we’ve had throughout June,” Friends of the Manchester Library Salmon Bake Chair Ray Pardo joked. “We’ve never had the tradition of this much sun in June, so hopefully we haven’t used it all up. If we haven’t, we’d expect to repeat the 800 dinners we served last year.”

That’s some 850 pounds of salmon at $12 a plate for adults, $10 for kids, with nearly all the proceeds going directly to the cause of the town’s local library. The salmon bake is the largest annual fundraiser for the upkeep and maintenance of the town’s library building — another iconic meter of the community’s integrity.

According to Kitsap Regional Library history, the Historic Manchester Library began with a single citizen’s belief that a strong community needs a library. That citizen, who also ran the town’s local shopping mart, donated a corner of her business for the town library and organized the first library committee. The library officially “opened” in 1947, moved into a renovated chicken coop in 1948 and was temporarily in the Manchester Improvement Club building before finding a solid home on Port of Manchester property in 1954 — which the port still leases to the library for the nominal fee of $1 per year.

“The Kitsap Regional Library System provides all the books and librarians,” Pardo said. “So what we’re doing is underwriting the free space for the library.”

It takes an estimated $24,000 to keep the building maintained, functioning and insured. The Salmon Bake is expected to cover about a third of that, Pardo said. But beyond raising funds, the annual event also serves as a regular reunion for Manchester families and neighbors. More than 50 volunteers help cook and serve, including local luminaries like Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer, South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and State Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) to name a few.

“Jill Jean, the head of the Kitsap Regional Library, she comes in each year just to bus tables,” Pardo added.

Some families, like the Bow family, who’ve been at the grill for the near entirety of the Salmon Bake’s 40-year history, use the event as a family reunion of sorts.

But everyone — whether or not they’ve Manchester roots — is welcome.

This year’s menu includes the open pit barbequed wild salmon, baked beans, coleslaw, garlic bread, and a beverage of choice, with concurrent cookie and book sales also benefiting the library.

The Friends of the Manchester Library’s Father’s Day Salmon bake is from noon-4 p.m. June 21 in the library parking lot, 8067 E. Main Street, Manchester. To get there, follow the signs from Highway 16 to Manchester State Park or follow Bay Street north to Beach Drive. Info: www.krl.org, www.manchesterwa.org.

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