Southeast Alaska State Fair Readies for Lift-Off!

It’s the last week in July and in Haines, that means time for the Southeast Alaska State Fair. The annual event draws crowds and entries from around the state and beyond.

The Motet. Photo courtesy of artist, shared via
The Motet. Photo courtesy of artist, shared via

Colorado-based band the Motet is one of nine headliners at the 47th annual fair. It runs Thursday through Sunday and the Motet hit the main stage on Saturday night. Vocalist Jans Ingber says this is the band’s first time playing the fair, and they are up for an adventure.

“Word got out that we were going to be up in Alaska. Because you know for some of us – it’s a journey to get up there. We play Salmonfest the night before we fly on three different planes to get to Haines,” said Ingber, adding that fair goers can expect some seriously funky dance music from the band.

Live music is a key feature of the fair – over 35 acts will play on three stages. They include local Haines and Skagway performers, and artists from Southeast and the Lower 48.

Fair Executive Director Jessica Edwards says one of the new offerings this year is a Sunday morning garden tour.

“We’re trying to dig in a little bit to the agricultural mission of our organizations. So getting people into people’s gardens and seeing what they’re doing, how they’re growing…there will be presentations by the growers…and an opportunity for people to see what other people are doing and what other methods are successful for them,” Edwards said.

Another new event is the Singer-Songwriter Showcase on Saturday. This is the chance for musicians to show off their talent in a less competitive setting than the juried Singer-Songwriter Competition held on Friday. The Southeast’s Got Talent show happens Thursday evening, with grand prizes of $400 for both the adult and youth categories. Edwards says that show is a fair highlight.

“I think our limitations are no dangerous acts, no animals and no fire. But beyond that…just anything goes. That’s been a super popular,” said Edwards.

Other fair contests include the Unleash Your Beast Adventure Run, the Wearable Art Review, the Haines Hustle 5K, 10K and Trail Half-Marathon, the Logging Show and the Fisherman’s Rodeo. There will be separate tournaments involving horseshoes, volleyballs and disc golf…and contests for the most loveable dog and best fiddle players.

And of course, you can’t have a state fair without exhibits of animals, vegetables, foods, arts and crafts.

“We’re really excited that we have some entries from around Southeast that we haven’t had before,” said Judy Heinmiller, who oversees the home arts exhibits. Entries for the beer and wine and preserved foods are already submitted and judged, but the baked goods entries don’t arrive until Wednesday to ensure maximum freshness. So far, she’s excited by the variety of preserved foods….

“We’ve got pickled beach asparagus…bull kelp pickles…a lot of dehydrated herbs,” Heinmiller said.

Ruth Headley  is the Fair’s town representative for Whitehorse. She says entries from Yukon quilters make the fair an international event this year.

“We have really never entered before. Someone came and invited us and said why don’t you enter and we went, we don’t know why we don’t enter. And so this is our first year and we managed to 23 I think entries. And next year we’re going to do even better,” said Headley.

Cyni Waddington is the town representative for Wrangell.

“Well, it’s kind of exciting because we just recently started doing our own fair to try to get more interest and we got some really cool exhibits this year…and then we will just box them all up from there and get them shipped to Haines…so we try to make it as easy as possible to get a good showing there,” said Waddington.

Sarah Lawrie from Sitka says she’s pleased with her town’s submissions, which include two wearable art dresses. One is made entirely of candy and the other is a 1920s-style outfit fashioned from wooden clothespins.

The exhibits will be displayed in the fairground’s Harriett Hall.

“During the fair, it’s super fun to go into the hall and just see everything. Some people are interested in seeing what won, some people are just interested in looking at what people create…it’s a nice way to get away from the hubbub action of the rides, the music – you can go in and be quiet and look at people’s art and creations,” said Edwards.

The hubbub arrives on Thursday, July 30th, starting at noon. Admission for all four days is $40 for adults. Senior and youth get in at half price. A shuttle for out-of-towners will be running from the ferry dock to the fairgrounds throughout each day.