There will be no Haines Beer Fest for the second year in a row. It’s usually an annual celebration of Alaska breweries that draws hundreds of regional travelers to Haines.
Due to pandemic restrictions, the event is on hold until next year. In a normal year, about 20 breweries would bring their best work to Haines in May to participate in a long weekend of tastings. Yukoners would drive down to get in on the fun. But the threat of COVID-19 still looms, and the Canadian border is still closed.
Kari Johnson is the Executive Director of non-profit Southeast Alaska State Fair, which organizes the event.
“Well, 70% of our ticket sales have always been, at least the last few years, have been Canadian, in the Yukon. And that’s a huge loss,” she said.
Without guests from the Yukon, she says the event doesn’t pencil out. And then there’s the pandemic. Johnson says safety precautions like masks and social distancing are harder to enforce at this style of event than the others on Southeast Alaska State Fair’s calendar.
“It’s just so much more difficult, when the whole purpose of the event is to be drinking, you know, and tasting beer. And we thought that would be a difficult thing to mitigate,” said Johnson.
There’s an additional headache. Ticket vendor Brown Paper Tickets still hasn’t refunded all ticket-holders from last year’s cancellation. Johnson says the fair will use a different vendor in the future and is still working towards a resolution with the company.
Beer Fest is among the organization’s biggest money-makers. The cancellation will mean a leaner budget for other events this year.
“We are just going to have to limit and cut,” Johnson said.
She said big ticket items that will see a 2021 downsize include entertainment acts at the fair this summer.
“I think our goal this year is just to really put on community events,” she said
“As far as revenue, we’re just going to focus on making sure that we can put on the events as best as we can.”
The rest of the organization’s events will go on, though in a pandemic safe fashion. The Winter Games is free to the public and will be held this Saturday. Opening ceremonies take place at 11 a.m. at the Fairgrounds.