Once a Russian settlement dating back to the early 1800’s, Ninilchik currently stands as a must-visit Alaska destination featuring stunning scenery and ample outdoor activities. Outdoor enthusiasts will love locations like Ninilchik State Recreation Area and Deep Creek State Recreation Area, which offer opportunities for sightseeing, claiming, hiking, and more. Visitors should stop by the town’s famous Russian Orthodox Church that’s more than two centuries old, and the town’s most distinctive building.
Salmonfest Alaska has been attracting thousands of people from all over North America since it began seven years ago, and it will take place August 4-6 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds. The event offers something for all ages and plays a significant role in unifying people to help protect and preserve Alaska’s salmon population. Attendees will encounter a diverse music experience complete with more than 70 bands and performers on four stages, including headliners like Jewel, Railroad Earth, Rusted Root, and more. Attendees will find an artisan marketplace that’s filled with a variety of handmade artwork and goods. The food court will feature top food options from around the state, and libations and craft beers will be available from a variety of vendors. The event donates proceeds to various environmentally themed charities including the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, Cook Inletkeeper, and Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay. We got the opportunity to interview Jim Stearns, Festival Director/Producer, to learn more about this multi-dimensional event.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
JS: This will be the 7th year of Salmonfest Alaska.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
JS: Organizers expect around 7,000 attendees.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract?
JS: The event is family friendly, and it attracts a lot of environmentally conscious clientele, but not entirely. There are also music lovers from all demographics.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
JS: Salmonfest is a major educational and environmental event that galvanizes Alaskans on critical issues, particularly involving protection of the state’s salmon and salmon habitats.
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
JS: There will be four stages featuring over 70 acts throughout the three-day event. Plus, top Alaska artists, crafters, brews, and cuisine will fill the fairgrounds along with various parades, puppets, speakers and colorful ambiance. This year, the event will not implement a zero waste strategy.
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
JS: People and acts come from all over the country and the world. Tickets were sold in 40 states last year, and the festival is widely considered (and voted in publications) as the best festival in Alaska. Zac Brown made a surprise appearance last year and played a surprise set with The Wood Brothers.
RAL: Are there any lodging specials that are set up specifically for the event?
JS: No, but Homer and Kenai offer a variety of lodging options and are only a 35-40 minute drive from the festival grounds. Lodging in Ninilchik is typically sold out months in advance of the event.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
JS: The festival is the strongest economic force in the community, and the majority of the local businesses look forward to this weekend throughout the year.
RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?
JS: The event distributes its proceeds to environmental 501(c)(3)’s such as Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, Cook Inletkeeper, and Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay (nearly $25,000 last year).
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
JS: Everyone should visit Alaska at least once. Many of the attendees use the festival as a launching point for a much larger Alaskan adventure. Many of our artists and attendees say that this is one the best festival and musical experiences around.