COVID-19’s impact on life, Salmonfest 2020 and the music industry in Alaska

By Salmonfest Director, Jim Stearns

The first question on phone calls, texts, and emails, now with a new level of sincerity, is “how are you doing?” In a world that has suddenly been thrust into a raging river of uncertainty, anxiety, grief, fear, hope, and anger, articulating the ever-changing emotional and mental landscape can be challenging.

Yes, the music business has been gutted – no pun intended – like a proverbial fish. Virtually every bar, venue, tour, gathering, and festival has been canceled or postponed not to mention the impact on connective services such as restaurants, hotels, and airlines.

Everyone will be affected and in some way or another everyone will have changed when we come out on the other side. To be certain, we will come out on the other side. We always come out on the other side. There will be heroes, victims, and scoundrels. There will be a new appreciation for those rank and file heroes that ensured hospitals, emergency services, and grocery stores stayed open. Those that kept the supply lines running and kept government services moving on federal, state and local levels.

The Salmonfest administration and extended family is, like most of us, concerned for our families, our friends, our communities, our livelihood, our nation, and indeed, all of humanity.

We are in no position to make any definitive decisions about whether to cancel or postpone the 2020 festival at this time. We are targeting Memorial Day as our go-no go date but we will certainly keep those who are interested updated as things progress. None of us know how this is going to play out but we remain hopeful amidst the ongoing tragedy as we watch China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan begin to put their societies back together. We have a fantastic celebration planned for the 10th anniversary and if somehow 2020 doesn’t work we assure you we’ll be working twice as hard to make 2021 even better.

We want to reiterate that anybody who has purchased tickets for 2020 will get a full refund if the festival is canceled.

If we have to cancel it will be painful because we will have to layoff staff just like any other organization. However, much of the pain will come from the fact that none of us get to do what we love; work together to celebrate life, love, salmon, food, art, crafts, brews, music, stories, and nature. Hopefully, a temporary loss will make the next time we gather that much more precious. Indeed, if we’ve learned anything about this, it is that nobody is an island and in times of crisis, we see how interconnected we are.

We try to remind ourselves that however difficult this time might be for us, we actually feel blessed and appreciate that we have warm, comfortable places t live, food in our cupboards and are in a position to weather the storm. Our hearts go out to those that suffer the most in times of crisis, disaster, and war: The ragged, homeless, forgotten, disenfranchised, marginalized, imprisoned, abused, and malnourished.

Yes, please support your favorite musicians, at least the ones that work gig to gig, but also think of supporting the aforementioned who often fall between the cracks.

Naturally, we all worry about each other but we also can use this time to redefine and/or rediscover ourselves. It’s hard to immediately embrace change when we’ve been thrust into foreign terrain but humans are incredibly adaptive. We’ll figure this out. Maybe we’ll discover new dreams while abandoning tired ones. Maybe we’ll find a different way of looking at the world, our loved ones, ourselves. Maybe, just maybe, as we grieve for the great loss of life, we can find a way to appreciate the world around us and the connectivity of it all.

The waves still roll rhythmically on the shore, the bulbs are bursting from the ground, the eagles soar overhead, spring is in the air, the sun and moon still rise and set, seemingly oblivious to our troubles. Yes, this too will pass.