Behind the Festival

Salmonfest, in its eighth year, is honored to continue helping Alaska. Under the stewardship of Kachemak Bay Conservation Society with support from Cook Inletkeeper, the primary organizations that support and receive benefits from Salmonfest are ARCHES, Alaskans Know Climate Change, and Musicians United To Protect Bristol Bay. Additionally, a wide variety of organizations have benefitted from cash and/or in-kind donations from the proceeds of the festival including but not limited to: 4 Valleys Community School, Alaska Sudan Medical Project for Clean Water, Taste of Kenai, Public Radio stations- KDLL, KBBI, KNBA, KMXT, KVMR, Ninilchik Chamber of Commerce, Homer Library, Ninilchik School Basketball teams, Pier One Theater, August Fund (Iditarod Dog Rescue), Stanislaus River Museum and Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds.

The festival began in 2011 as Salmonstock and quickly became a powerful force in promoting, preserving, and protecting salmon and salmon habitat, as well as creating a compelling destination for family, friends, visitors, and musicians from throughout the state and even the nation. Salmonstock received special mention under the stewardship of Renewable Resources Foundation and received the National Wildlife Federation award for the 501c3 Affiliate of the Year in 2015, with the award noting that “One of the most visible successes has been the creation of Salmonstock, an annual music and arts festival that continues to educate thousands of young Alaskans about Bristol Bay and the region’s wild salmon runs.” When Renewable Resources Foundation went into hiatus because of apparent success in the Pebble struggle, festival producer Jim Stearns, with the support of the assistant producer, Jeffrey Abel, moved the festival stewardship to Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, where it has remained for the last four years. As a result, KBCS, Alaskans Know Climate Change, and Cook Inletkeeper have received tens of thousands of dollars in proceeds so far during the Salmonfest years.

Stearns initially hired in 2011 by Renewable Resources Foundation to produce Salmonstock, now directs and produces Salmonfest under the current 501C3’s stewardship, building on his long history of creating and/or working with non-profits as a board member, founder, or employee. Stearns has long seen the benefit in bringing the music festival community together to help crucial causes and has worked tirelessly to do so over the last 25 years. Since departing the Grateful Dead staff in 1995, bringing true production expertise to his heart’s passion for clean water, clean air, and the safety of the natural world, Stearns has produced over 100 fundraisers and benefits for a wide variety of individuals, causes, and organizations, primarily working in Northern California and now Alaska to increase awareness and raise money for conservation and humanitarian causes. Those organizations and causes include Friends of the River, Tuolumne River Preservation Trust, Clavey River Coalition, The Rex Foundation, Meals on Wheels, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Angels Camp United Congregation Soup Kitchen, Homer’s Share the Spirit Spaghetti Dinner, and Humanity Rising.

In 2004, immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Stearns traveled to Houston to set up a large-scale food service operation to help the enormous wave of evacuees who had fled New Orleans after Katrina with little but the clothes they wore. Raising almost 200k within a couple weeks, he and his wife at the time, Alisa Mooy, started Gulf Haven Katrina Relief Kitchen and, with friends and family flying in to help, served over 75,000 meals over three months. Because of that effort, Stearns was awarded a Humanitarian of the Year award by the Houston Police Department.

In addition to serving as the producer/ director for Salmonfest, Stearns also currently serves as the Board President of the Kenai Peninsula Fair Association, Vice President of K.B.C.S., and Board member and coach for Homer Little League.

Salmonfest is, always has been, and will continue to run under the stewardship of a 501c3 with proceeds primarily focused on promoting and conserving salmon habitat and the Alaskan ocean and streams on which this miraculous species so depends. The staff, sponsors, and beneficiaries of the festival deeply appreciate the contribution of the entire Salmonfest community, especially the Alaska musicians, the many 501C3’s that contribute to the Salmon Causeway, and all the patrons who passionately support the festival and all that it represents.

Many of Alaska’s major conservation organizations come together during Salmonfest to help engage, educate, and galvanize the festival attendees along the Salmon Causeway, a region of the festival created by Cook Inletkeeper. CIK works tirelessly to create a zero-waste festival, composting vendor waste as well as recycling and sorting from designated stations throughout the festival. Many of Alaska’s top crafters, artists, food purveyors, musicians, and brewers also make the annual pilgrimage to Ninilchik the first week of August to celebrate what probably is the most transcendent element connecting us all: the timeless wonder of the five salmon species which, Salmonfest hopes, remain such a major part of our state’s heritage and identity.