Annie On the Spot’s Guide to surviving the Haines Fair

The Southeast Alaska State Fair is possibly the greatest festival on Earth. Hordes of beautiful people from all over Alaska and the Lower 48 are imported to Haines for one weekend only to celebrate all that makes Southeast Alaska amazing.

You’ve probably already bought your ferry ticket, taken the time off work–but one large question remains, what should you bring with you?

While you’re not packing for the apocalypse, Southeast Alaska isn’t forgiving to the unprepared. Once you’re in Haines, the supplies you have can make or break the festival, so skip the drama and pack for the worst. It doesn’t matter if you’ve done the fair a million gazillion times, learn from my mistakes and prepare to have the time of your life.


While you may have romantic ideas about biking your giant bag into town, the reality is that it’s a long hard slog from the ferry terminal. Coming from the woman who was literally the last one to the campsite–this athletic feat is just not worth the tears or bruises you will sustain being a stubborn jerk.

The truth is, nobody does the Haines Fair alone. All it takes is one friend with a vehicle, and you probably already know someone who’s going. Throw em’ a couple bucks and throw that monkey on your back in the trunk where it belongs. Plus they can stake out the best camping spots before the bikers’ exodus from the ferry terminal.


The basic rule is don’t bring anything you can’t live without losing, destroying or smelling like a hippie mosh pit. Even though the forecast is great, you’re still going to be outside for hours, so long johns are a necessity and layers are your best friend. No matter how hot it gets during the day, it still gets dang cold at night–so bring a light jacket or flannel for the bottom of your purse. You will also be really sad if you don’t bring a raincoat of some kind if it starts to pour. For footwear, XTRATUF boots are eternally cool and will be your first defense against getting trampled at the front of the stage Saturday night.


At the fair, you may see plenty of women with amazing hair–straightened, feathered, curled and coiffed–and you will immediately wish you brought your hair accessories. But you really do not want to bring them. Curling irons and straighteners are deadweight and require time and effort you really should be spending enjoying the fair.

Swap out your usual primping regimen for something simpler: a good bottle of dry shampoo and a beanie. Nothing says “I’m a carefree babe” like the just rolled out of bed/beachy hair look. And no one will judge you if you start developing a mini-dreadlock in the back. Too broke to do dry shampoo? Baby powder works almost as effectively and doubles as a fragrance.

Mama always said don’t sleep with your makeup on. And you don’t have to.  These days there are amazing face wipes that you can use on your entire body. Fragrance free, organic, patchouli-proof, whatever, and they’re probably at Fred Meyer. Even though you’re just disappearing for a weekend, buy the 20 pack. All the babes in camp will love you when they’re too tired to wash their faces.

First Aid

When you’re taking it to the edge every night, it’s pretty likely you won’t feel 100 percent the next day. Prepare for this discomfort with over-the-counter remedies and bring extra because everyone in your immediate camping group will probably feel the same. These are my favorites:

  • A lady on a rock
    Annie Bartholomew host of Annie On the Spot at Haines Fair 2013. (Photo by Katie Bode)

    Aleve – the magic blue pill that will cancel out the aches inflicted from typical Haines Fair behavior: sleeping on rocks, head banging injuries, bike crashes and unexpected migraines.

  • Pepto-Bismol/TUMS – Let’s be real here, vendor food is delicious and some of it won’t agree with you. Life is too short to feel nauseated.
  • Alka-Seltzer – Because someone’s going to have too much fun the night before and won’t wanna come out Saturday morning.
  • Fisherman’s Friend – These taste like crap, but they are the best when losing your voice. At Haines Fair 2012 I sucked on these babies all weekend and they helped me get through my main stage set twice!
  • DayQuil – Somebody’s going to be sick while your immune system’s taking a vacation. Don’t spend $15 on this when you’re desperate in Haines.


Whatever you expect to spend on food on a normal vacation, multiply it by four. In Haines it’s impossible to resist the temptation of great eats around every corner. You’re already going to spend a small fortune at the Mountain Market, so take some precautions for your health and wallet before getting on the ferry.

One way to bring down the cost is to outfit yourself with snacks–and don’t wait till you get to Haines to pick these up. Your selection is always better at home. My go-to is apples, little baggies of almonds, Clif Bars and carrots. My criteria are anything that will fit in my purse and I can live off comfortably if I run out of money during the weekend.

An unexpected consequence of so many party rockers hitting up Haines is long lines everywhere. And when it’s late, there are even fewer places to get food. Don’t wait till your blood sugar is crashing to feed your body–you’ve got to make it the whole weekend! That includes the P Bar and Fogcutter both nights!

Final Thoughts

Though the great weather and underage kiddos on the beach may make you feel like you’re spring breakin’ in Cancun, you’re not. This is a family-friendly event and you’re guaranteed to run into somebody from work. So don’t forget your dignity and use these tips to stay fabulous.

Annie Bartholomew is a Southeast Alaska State Fair veteran and each year swears she’ll never go back, but always does. 

Reader Interactions