The Southeast Alaska State Fair is on for this weekend, with COVID precautions

A woman competes in the axe throwing contest during the logging show at the 2016 Southeast Alaska State Fair. (Photo by Jillian Rogers/KHNS)
A woman competes in the axe throwing contest during the logging show at the 2016 Southeast Alaska State Fair. (Jillian Rogers/KHNS)

The Southeast Alaska State Fair will go on as planned this coming weekend. Fair organizers say they are taking steps to ensure the safest gathering possible even as COVID-19 cases spike across Southeast Alaska.

Last year there was no fair due to the pandemic. One of the fair organizers, Madeline Witek, says she’s expecting a fun-yet-safe event this year.

“The beauty of the Southeast Alaska State Fair is almost all of it happens outside, which is the CDC is recommending to if you’re going to hold an event, have it be outside. So that’s really in our favor,” Witek said.

But there are a number of activities that won’t be on the schedule this year as part of the mitigation plan.

“There won’t be a bounce house. And we won’t have the joust, which is the inflatable kind of warrior, knock people off of a pedestal thing for lack of a better word,” Witek said. “It’s an inflatable arena, and you hit people.”

The Southeast Alaska State Fair typically draws hundreds of people from communities like Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory, Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, and Haines. The event features music shows, vendors and a slew of activities and games for all ages.

There will be some changes: no beer sold and no live music at the Klondike Stage. But there will still be a horseshoe tournament, she said

“There will not be alcohol for sale with the horseshoes, which I know is a disappointment for some but I think that we’ll be able to move forward with the horseshoe tournament without beers in our hands,” Witek said.

One of the biggest changes fairgoers will see is the sign-in sheet at the entrance to track attendees.

“That’s really the only way that we are able to keep track of who is attending. And in the very, we feel, unlikely event of any outbreak and the need to do contact tracing, that’s how we’re going to be able to do it,” Witek said.

Another big change will be shorter hours.

“We will not be having a late-night program, we will be wrapping up for the evening at around eight or nine o’clock depending on the day. That’s always, you know, people hang out in the beer garden later. And the late night music, everybody kind of comes together to dance. Part of our COVID mitigation strategy is to avoid that,” Witek said.

Organizers will make free masks available at the entrance, there will be hand-washing and sanitizing stations located throughout and social distancing is encouraged.

There is a long schedule of events available at Seakfair.org, culminating in headlining acts like Diggin Dirt, a funk band out of California on Friday night, and The Lack Family on Saturday. The final event of the weekend will be a free-for-all pie fight at 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

“We have a lot of whipped cream and Dreamwhip. And we are making whipped cream pies. And it’s a no-rules pie fight,” Witek said.

Transportation options include the Alaska Marine Highway System, Alaska Fjordlines, the Haines-Skagway Fast Ferry and options from Alaska Seaplanes.

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