Beachcombers Fun Fair features whale of a guest this year

Annual event includes beach walks, lectures, collections and displays at the Ocean Shores Convention Center March 4-5.

By Scott D. Johnston

The biggest guest in the 30-year history of Ocean Shores’ Beachcombers Fun Fair will dominate the Convention Center as the unique event returns this weekend, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

“Big Mama” is a life-sized, inflatable humpback whale that makes up a traveling educational exhibit sponsored by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is 40 long, 37 feet wide at the fins, and over 6 feet tall. The design allows people to actually enter the inflated whale as part of the experience.

Arrayed around Big Mama for the weekend will be a mix of informational booths, exhibits, displays, collections, art and vendors, all featuring various aspects of life in and around the beach. It is one of only four similar annual events across the country.

Beginning at 2 p.m. Friday, the public is invited to bring their beachcombed treasures, art and photography for exhibits in 44 different categories, to the lobby of the Convention Center for check-in. There is no charge and all entries are eligible for ribbons. Entries must be in place for judging by 7 p.m. All entries must remain on display until 4 p.m. Sunday, March 5. Exhibitors will be admitted free for the weekend.

Regular admission is $3 per adult, $1 per child ages 6-12, and free for children 5 and under.

Two new elements will celebrate this year’s 30th anniversary. Event producer Dianne Hansen created the “Wall of 30,” which is 30 donated items “representing various aspects and elements of the 30-year history of the Beachcombers’ Fun Fair,” she said. The items will be in an ongoing raffle that costs $5 per ticket. Winning tickets will be announced hourly and winners can choose from items remaining on the wall.

Also new is a Saturday night salmon dinner with speakers and honorees including long-time event producer Helen Lord.

The event also offers a variety of seminars and speakers including author Robert Steelquist, retired University of Washington oceanographer and author Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Dan Ayers, coastal shellfish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Alan Rammer, science educator, author and the only living founder of the event.

Rammer came to Ocean Shores in 1983 and began pushing for a beach-themed event similar to the one he had been involved with for several years in Seaside, Ore. With the help of Doc and Emma Bedilion and others, the event was launched in 1985 with Rammer serving as chairman through 1989.

“The whole premise,” he explained, “was family activities on the Washington coast.” The celebration of all things related to life on and around the beach offered a wide variety of content. “This one has continued to hold its own and blossom,” he said on the eve of the 30th year of the event he helped create.

Hansen, in her second year coordinating the event, said she sees the Beachcombers’ Fun Fair as something that “helps us all understand and appreciate the marine environment in which we live, so we can enjoy it, protect it and preserve it for future generations.”

To that end, Saturday morning from 10 until noon, children are invited to participate in an interactive program that allows them to visit with scientists and specialists in a variety of beach and ocean-related fields, including a tour of the Big Mama inflatable humpback whale. Children will be admitted free only during the morning hours when accompanied by a paying adult. Prizes will be awarded to all who participate.

Sunday morning, from 9 to 11 a.m., is Ebbesmayer’s Dash for Trash or Treasure, with prizes awarded at 1 p.m., along with the coveted Doc Bedilion People’s Choice Award.

Scheduled Sessions/Speakers include:

• Humpback Whales — NOAA and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary — 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

• Extreme Beachcombing — John Anderson — 11 a.m.. Saturday.

• Flotsam on the Washington Shores — Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer — 2 p.m. Saturday.

• Fun Facts about Northwest Sea Life — Alan Rammer — 3 p.m. Saturday.

• WA Dept. of Fish &Wildlife — Dan Ayers — 1 p.m. Sunday.

• Northwest Beachcombing — Alan Rammer — 2 p.m. Sunday.

More information is available online at