First local fish expo had 43 vendors and raised roughly $15,000 to benefit the Little Angels Childcare Academy.
The first Bristol Bay Fish Expo was held Friday and Saturday in Naknek. The theme was “Bridging the Bay: Connecting the community and industry” and was a fundraiser for the Little Angel’s Child Care Academy.
Fishermen and their processors, industry vendors, kids, bakers, jewelers and the volunteer fire department all turned out for the expo in the Bristol Bay Borough School Gym. The event opened with a ceremonial ‘First Fish’ presentation. Katie Copps-Wilson, one of the founders of Little Angel’s Childcare Academy, said it was a celebration.
“Just for us we wanted to represent the fish here because it’s so important to us,” she said. “This fish was in the ‘Will Brother’s’ net this morning and so they brought it in. Not many people are catching fish yet and so we got one of the first fish to come in.”
Recognizing the next generation of fishers was important at this expo that will benefit Naknek’s upstart childcare program. Sustaining Bristol Fisheries Project Director Christina Andrew had her infant with her at the booth.
“I have a little one who’s going to be dependent on the fishery,” she said. “In a few years he’ll be needing child care and we might actually come back to Nakenek, we used to live here.”
Marcus Williams was heading up the Will Brother’s table. They are a family company that supplies salmon to the South West states.
“So we’re just here to support the Little Angels, but we’re just letting people know and making connections with the direct marketing,” Williams said, “We’ve got some smoked salmon here – got a little bit left from last year and not everybody’s got it, so we thought we’d bring a little smoke to the party.”
The expo had several events, including a Bristol Bay themed fashion show. A dozen models of all ages sported the latest trends, including Xtratufs, Grundens and Salmon Sisters. The crowd voted on the best outfit with their dollars.
Mackenzie Mancuso, a Naknek native, recently graduated from the Art Institute of Portland in fashion marketing, and she was the inspiration behind the idea. She sported an outfit she described as “fisherwoman chic.”
“Then I just had a Carhartt jacket and Xtratuf boots and a dress – that’s my idea of a fashionable day in Naknek.”
The expo wrapped up with a speed hiring, like speed dating, but for work this salmon season. Captains and potential crew had three minutes to interview. Zian Minhinnick from New Zealand came to Bristol Bay on a whim looking for a job, and said speed hiring potentially landed him a job.
“One of my mates been working up here for three years on the boats, he’s on the ‘Honey Badger’ this year,” Minhinnick said. “I thought I’d come up and give it a go. I also wanna get on a boat.”
Organizers say about $15,000 was raised through table fees and raffles, all of which will benefit the Little Angels Childcare Academy.