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Every year, an estimated 20,000 grey whales make the salty trek from the Baja Peninsula in Mexico to the Bering Strait near the Arctic to feed – and you can celebrate their impressive journey, as well as the area’s resident greys, humpbacks and orcas at the Pacific Rim Whale Festival.

A Tofino Fire Brigade Community Breakfast kicks off this weekend’s events, which include a whale-themed parade, a family story time at sea, a Taste of Tofino market, art exhibits, guided walks and the legendary Chowder Chowdown, which has the area’s top chefs vying for chowder supremacy.

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The nine-day fest also features fundraisers such as the Martini Migration, a mixology event by local bartenders; the Bartender Blues, where music fans can soak up the sounds of Jim Byrnes and Headwater; and Sweet Indulgence, where even the most stalwart sweet tooths can sate themselves with all-you-can-eat desserts.

But the primary focus of the fest is education, and leading naturalists and biologists offer myriad talks, walks, and marine tours about everything from frogs, sea otters and inlet birds to the most majestic of migrating mammals.

“It’s definitely a unique place, and we get to teach visitors why this area is sacred both culturally and environmentally,” says organizer Wendy Hainstock. “And we’re creating that exposure so the world really knows why it’s worth protecting.”

The Pacific Rim Whale Festival runs through March 25, and many events are free. For more info, visit pacificrimwhalefestival.com.

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