Salmonfest 2019: Fish, Love and Music
October 1, 2019
Sunshine and good vibes flowed on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula as several thousand people descended on Salmonfest 2019, three days of fish, love and music that also serves to impress upon participants the vital importance of healthy salmon habitat.
"Salmonfest is recognized as a major force in organizing and educating people against the Pebble mine," says Jim Stearns, executive producer of the annual event, held Aug. 2-4.
Salmonfest, now in its ninth year, began in 2011 as Salmonstock, to rally opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine.
As Stearns tells it, the event quickly became a force in promoting, preserving and protecting salmon and salmon habitat. The event also from its start attracted a following of people passionate about salmon and music, many of whom return annually to camp out and listen to three days of almost non-stop music from over 60 bands on four stages.
This year's headliners were folk rock songwriter Ani DiFranco and Jason Mraz, known for his eclectic mix of soul, reggae folk, funk and hip hop music.
For Stearns, once on staff with the famed Grateful Dead rock band, it is admittedly a labor of love. "I know how to keep things lively," said Stearns, who got his start in entertainment throwing parties back in his college days. As Salmonfest grew in popularity, with more and more people showing up with their tents to enjoy all three days of the event, Stearns realized there was a need for more camping space, so this year Salmonfest acquired 40 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the fairgrounds and opened it up for camping.
Along with a paid staff of 50, Salmonfest has 350 volunteers.
Vendor space, which sells out in early spring, is filled by crafters, artists and food sellers offering everything from salmon and halibut dishes to pizza.
Jen Luton, of Kenai, one of two tie-dye vendors this year, said she gets into full blown conversations with all of her customers, whom she describes as "extremely cool, salt of the earth people." The Pebble Mine, said Luton, "is the wrong mine in the wrong place. Some people don't realize how important it is to protect the environment."
Major supporters of Salmonfest include the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, Cook Inletkeeper, both of Homer, who offer information on the importance of protecting fish habitat at their festival booths. The family friendly event also includes plenty of activities for youngsters attending, demonstrations on use of the whole salmon in cooking, fish art printing and environmental education
Event proceeds are shared with a variety of entities that promote healthy fish habitat, as well as public radio stations and the Alaska Sudan Medical Project for Clean Water.