The Southeast Alaska State Fair wrapped up its four-day run of festivities this weekend. Despite rising COVID-19 cases and border restrictions, people from across the region came together for a weekend of fun and community.
It was the first fair since the pandemic led to last year’s cancelation. Organizers recommended masking and social distancing, but very few people appeared to take those precautions. Attendees were also asked to jot down their names and phone numbers at the entrance in case contact tracers had to get in touch later.
The crowds were thinner on Sunday, the final day of the fair. But kids were back at the carnival games and rides, families flocked to the food court and high schoolers play a fast paced volleyball game.
At Harriet Hall, artists and makers of all ages from across Southeast Alaska and the Yukon displayed their work. Purple, blue and red ribbons adorned wall displays of photography, quilts, cases of jams and wearable art pieces some that went down the runway the day before.
Exhibitor Darrel Jerue of Klukwan won division champion and first place for two beadwork pieces — his first entries at Southeast’s fair.
“I’ve got a stargazer lily, about four by six (inches). It takes about six months to do each piece that large. And also have the wet raven. It has the sun, the moon and also the Earth in there,” he said.
Jerue says he learned beading from his mother, Sally Burattin, who passed away last March.
“She taught me how to do all this,” he said.
He says the public reception at the fair has been overwhelmingly positive, but still, he’s missing her. So he’s unsure where his beadwork will go next.
“Right now, I put myself in a predicament where I can’t touch a needle until probably next year, after the one year mark on my mom’s death. It’s hard for me to start a project because she was always there for me, to say there, it’s good,” he said. “She was always a mentor for me.”
The raven piece will be incorporated into a traditional blanket that was started by his mother, which will be completed by several family members and then displayed at the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center in Klukwan.
Outside the hall, the disc golf tournament wrapped up with awards and cash prizes. TeoLani Baker of Haines is seven months pregnant and won the women’s division for the second year in a row, while her husband Colton Baker won the men’s.
“The luck, I guess,” she said. “I think that’s what makes it the most fun. You can’t ever get too good that you might not lose.”
As the fair winds down, volunteers with Haines Friends of Recycling sorted compost and recyclables as part of the fair’s zero-waste effort. Food vendors were required to use compostable plates and utensils.
Haines Friends of Recycling chair Melissa Aronson says the initiative has had a huge impact in diverting waste and saving money at the dump. She says that each year she sees improvement.
“They used to bring a great big Conex in here and fill it up, you know, sometimes more than once over the course of the fair. This year they just brought one bear-proof canister,” she said. “So that seems to be really improving, people are paying attention.”
The last event of the fair weekend was a pie fight in Raven’s Arena. The fair’s theme this year was “Live Free, Pie Hard.”
Within minutes, kids and adults were covered in pie as a crowd cheered from the stands. And with that, the Southeast Alaska State Fair was over.
Organizers haven’t released the number of ticket sold this year. They estimate past years have reached 11,000 people, but this year saw a significantly smaller crowd.