Salmonfest celebrates salmon and its habitat

Eyak Preservation Council slated to speak about Navy exercises in PWS

Indigo Girls, the Grammy Award-winning folk rock duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, headline this year’s Salmonfest, Aug. 5-7 at Ninilchik, three days of fish, love and music celebrating the connection of Alaskans with salmon and its habitat.

Also on tap are the bluegrass/folk rock band Trampled By Turtles, from Duluth, MN;
and the performance art collective Quixotic Cirque Nouveau, of Kansas City, MO.,
plus The Wood Brothers, Young Dubliners, Clinton Fearon, Dead Winter Carpenters, Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, Edge of the West, The Good Time Travelers, Super Saturated Sugar Strings and Hope Social Club.

In all several dozen bands and individual musicians, including Conway Seavey of Sterling, a member of the famous Alaska dog mushing Seavey family, will be performing, said Jim Stearns, the festival’s producer and director. Seavey’s band recently won the Battle of the Bands at the Hardrock Café in Anchorage.

While artist and musician Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers won’t be able to make it this year, his presence will be felt in all the art work Troll prepares for the festival, organizers said.
“We start booking in October and get really serious in January,” Stearns said.

“The great thing we have going for us is the festival is getting widely hailed around the nation, and many bands we talk to say everyone has heard about our festival and every one wants to come.”

To appeal to the talent in terms of their social conscience, and their desire to come to Alaska, Salmonfest put together an electronic brochure to send to their agents, and reminding them that they can bring friends and family along.


“You just have to keep knocking on the doors,” he said.

Taking into consideration the size of its entertainment budget, Salmonfest looks for musicians with a social or environmental consciousness, and that plays big, he said.

The most challenging pat is the logistics of arranging transportation and housing for musicians coming in from out of state, and accommodating the different situations that arise with the variety of personalities of each.

“It’s like skiing a quadruple black diamond,” he said. “You want to ski it to see if you can get to the bottom.”

Some bands present more challenges than others, like the group of nine where Stearns ended up having to send three vans to pick them up, three at a time, with the last three band members refusing to check out of their hotel room until past the check out time, costing Salmonfest another night’s lodging expenses.

It’s something Stearns said he never had to deal with when arranging similar productions in California or Oregon. Back then the musicians would just get to the hotel themselves, check in, play the gig and go home, he said.

For Salmonfest, Stearns has a pool of drivers, and back-up drivers, to pick them up at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, deliver them to their accommodations on the Kenai Peninsula, handle their transportation needs there and get them back to Anchorage for their flights out.

Salmonfest garners support from and benefits The Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, the Homer non-profit organization that works to educate the public about the importance of protecting Alaska’s wild fish habitat. This year Cook Inletkeeper has joined the festival too as a primary sponsor and partner in the “fish first” advocacy, and will coordinate educational and outreach components of the event.

Among the scheduled speakers are Emily Stolarcyk, program manager for the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova; Maria Finn, author of “The Whole Fish;” and others from Trout Unlimited, United Tribes of Bristol Bay and Musicians for Bristol Bay.

The Eyak Preservation Council,, has an ongoing campaign asking the U.S. Navy to conduct military training exercises in the Gulf of Alaska in the fall rather than during the summer fishing season. More information on Navy plans the council efforts to change the dates is on the website.

Along with about four dozen paid staff, Salmonfest has some 200 volunteers whose assignments run the gamut from driving shuttle buses to pick up campers up and down the highway to bartending, black stage security, parking and recycling.

To volunteer, look online at for more information.

Ticket sales are on pace with last year and those planning to attend are urged to purchase their tickets in advance.

Along with hours of music, the event has food, crafts, art and educational booths, in a family friendly atmosphere that includes daily children’s programs. The message from organizers is “together let’s continue to move forward and celebrate wild Alaska in a weekend of fish, love and music.”