On Aug. 6 and 7 you can experience fresh troll-caught Alaskan Coho cooked to perfection over smoky Alder wood during the longest, continuously run salmon bakes in the state. The Browns Point Salmon Bake has been serving up fish dinners since 1946 to the public.
Jerry Meeker first organized the salmon/clam bakes for Browns Point residents to celebrate the end of summer – a tradition he started in the early 1900s. Meeker was a Puyallup Indian who moved to Browns Point in 1904 and subsequently gave the area its unique street names, organizers say.
Meeker owned the property immediately adjacent to where the Browns Point Improvement Club clubhouse stands. In 1938, Meeker helped host a salmon bake to specifically raise funds for the purchase of the property. Following World War II, he oversaw the first public Salmon Bake which was held to raise funds for the construction of the initial clubhouse. The clubhouse was dedicated in 1955. Meeker died two months later. The Salmon Bake was continued ever since to fund the BPIC’s activities and honor Meeker’s legacy.
Through the years the two-day event at 201 Ton A Wan Da Ave. N.E. in Tacoma has grown. In addition to the full salmon dinner – complete with corn on the cob, salad, roll and a non-alcoholic beverage you can also get hamburgers, hot dogs, clam chowder, ice-cream, milkshakes, and more. Full salmon dinners are $21 with discounts for seniors, military, and kids. There is a beer and wine garden open until midnight Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday. Beers on tap include domestics and local microbrews.
The Browns Point Improvement Club (BPIC) partners with the Meeker Middle School parents to offer a variety of games for kids to play for small fees. Proceeds help fund the Meeker-New Zealand student exchange program.
The Salmon Bake is also home to Bouncing Betty, a Browns Point original carnival-style game where kids (and kids-at-heart) can test their skill and accuracy in a ball toss game.
The art show featuring Northwest artists will be held in the BPIC clubhouse, with local artists selling their work. The type of art varies from year to year, but has included handmade jewelry, glass art, woodcarvings, and photographs.
David Malone, president of the BPIC, is one of the three co-chairs (along with Matt Williams and Sandy Overmars) who collectively organize and oversee the Salmon Bake activities, along with dozens of volunteers who run the events.
“The Salmon Bake is a manifestation of the Browns Point sense of community; its part block party, part high school reunion, and part street fair – all set against the backdrop of the Salish Sea and Olympic Mountains,” Malone said.
According to Malone, the recipe and method of salmon preparation is a secret known only to members of the pit crew. “We’re all volunteers! Aside from some of the live entertainment and professional security, everyone you encounter working at the bake is a volunteer. Many of our volunteers are former Browns Point residents who return just for the bake to volunteer and catch up with old friends.”
The Salmon Bake raises funds to support BPIC community activities, fund scholarships, and ensure the BPIC clubhouse can be made available for free or reduced rates by Browns Point community organizations.
Photos courtesy the Browns Point Improvement Club