Friday Afternoon Club: Hooked on Salmon

Manchester grill-a-thon is a Father’s Day tradition for many families.

And then there was the time they cooked the salmon on the incoming tide, their feet under water as they tended the grill.
The annual Manchester Father’s Day Salmon Bake, hosted by Friends of Manchester Library, has become a treasure trove of family lore for octogenarian Bob Bow and his clan, who come each year from as far as California for the event.
Now in its 39th year, the salmon bake will be held noon to 5 p.m. (or whenever the salmon runs out) Sunday in the Manchester Library parking lot.

The event is a major fundraiser for the library, which is part of the Kitsap Regional Library system but is owned and operated by FOML volunteers.
Bow, 82, was one of the original chefs when the salmon bake began lo these many years ago. Never mind that he’s not actually from Manchester (he lives near South Kitsap High School). After 30 years in the Navy, Bow was the county’s fiscal officer. One year, his coworker, county auditor Ted Wright said, “’If you want to have a good time, come and cook salmon,’ and I’ve been doing it ever since,’” said Bow.
In the early years, the cooks did everything: gathered the green alder to make the smoke, set up the grill and filleted the fish (several hundred pounds worth) the night before. Then they spent the whole next day cooking and serving it up.
“Those old-timers did a heck of a lot individually. Now it’s all parceled out,” said Bob’s son Terry Bow of Elma, who took over as head honcho salmon chef 20 years ago. Although he hasn’t lived in Kitsap County since 1993, he still comes back to cook at the salmon bake.
“Every year since 1977, that’s been my Father’s Day, working there with my dad,” said Bow.
The event hasn’t always gone off without a hitch. They used to have it on the beach, but one year, they misjudged the tide. They couldn’t just pick up the grill — a huge conglomeration assembled from corrugated sheet metal and fire brick — so they stuck it out, as the water inched higher and higher up their shins.
“It was kind of almost a disaster, but it was a lot of fun,” said Bow.
The salmon, basted in garlic butter and grilled over an alder smoke fire, is worth a trip from anywhere, but it’s not just the food that keeps folks coming back. It’s the tradition.
This year all but one of Bob Bow’s children and a number of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will travel in for the salmon bake. Besides Terry, there’s Tom Bow of Salem, Ore., Melanie Bow and Tim Bow of Walla Walla, Barbara McDonald of Port Orchard and Ardis Bow of Sacramento, Calif. The Bows are not the only family that uses the salmon bake as an excuse for a reunion, Terry Bow said. Many relatives and former Manchester residents gather for the fun.
“What really got me to stay with it, I see a community of people getting involved with their community,”Bow said. “It’s grown, but they’ve still kept that community feeling.”
Bob Bow said he’s “now of the age of being the casual observer.” But that hasn’t diminished he pleasure in the event.
“It’s such a great cause, and the people are such nice people, and we all have a good time,” he said.
The nonprofit Friends of Manchester Library is supported entirely through donations and fund-raising events like the salmon bake. The library building itself was built and paid for by volunteers. This year, Manchester Library’s operating budget is $23,000, and money will be tight in part due to the failure of the library system’s levy lid lift., according to salmon bake organizers.
The Friends of Manchester Library hope to serve 700 dinners this year. Guest food servers will be state Sen. Derek Kilmer, Rep. Pat Lantz, Kitsap Regional Library Director Jill Jean, KRL trustee Gail Mathison and Manchester Water District Commissioner Steve Pedersen. More than 50 people will volunteer to pull it all off. Entertainment will be provided by the rock ‘n’ roll band Backlash. A book sale will be held during the salmon bake.

Friends of Manchester Library Salmon Bake
Friends of Manchester Library will host its annual Salmon Bake, a fundraiser for Manchester Library from noon to 5 p.m. in the library parking lot. The menu include open pit barbecued wild salmon, baked beans, cole slaw, garlic bread and beverage. Adults $10; kids 14 and under $7. For more information, call (360) 769-2258.

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