It seemed like it would never happen, but the snow is gone and you can take to the road to check out all the great summer fairs and festivals Alaska has to offer. This year, try voyaging in a direction you’ve never gone by taking the Alaska Marine Highway to Cordova, Haines or Ketchikan, and be treated to bubble feeding whales, porpoises trailing alongside and breaching belugas-all at no extra cost.
Here are some fairs and festivals to put on your list.
Anchorage Love My Pet Fest, July 8, Arctic Rec Center, 4855 Arctic Blvd., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vendors exhibit products and services related to owning a pet, including groomers, trainers, crafters, medical rescues, food and fun. Free.
Anchorage Galway Days Irish Festival, Aug. 12, 544 W 5th Ave., 11 a.m.
Irish music and dancers, street performers, workshops, genealogy information, vendor booths, and a children’s Lá Féile (St. Patrick’s Day) tent. A festive fare of fish and chips, an Irish bake sale, and the McCarthy Stout beer garden by 49th State Brewing Company. Free. http://www.irishalaska.org/galway-days.html
Anchorage Alaska Greek Festival, Aug. 18-20, 2800 O’Malley Road.
Enjoy the best of Greek culture in Alaska! Taste traditional foods from lamb to vegan and traditional Greek pastries, listen to live Greek folk music, watch and learn how to Greek dance. Free parking and admission. OPA! http://www.akgreekfestival.com
Palmer Alaska State Fair, Aug. 18-Sept. 4. Food, rides, concerts, exhibits – too many to list here. Senior (age 65+) ticket prices range from $8 weekdays, $9 weekends to $55 for a full “season pass”. There are also group ticket purchases, and all active and retired military personnel pay just $5 for Military Appreciation Day on Sept. 4. See the full schedule at http://www.alaskastatefair.org.
Chugiak/Eagle River Bear Paw Festival, July 12-16. Community-wide celebration with food and other vendors, carnival rides, games, entertainment. Grand Parade is July 15 at 11 a.m., and Adult Trivia Night is Thursday, July 13, 5-7 p.m., at Corks & Hops. Free. Full schedule at http://www.bearpawfestival.org.
Girdwood Forest Fair, July 7-9, Mile 2.2 on the Alyeska Highway. Family fair featuring Alaskan artists, hand-crafted items, many food vendors, and entertainers from all over Alaska. Free. https://girdwoodforestfair.com/
Homer Peony Celebration, July 1-30. Dubbed “The City of Peonies,” Homer boasts 25 peony farms and comes alive with beautiful and fragrant peonies during the annual Homer Peony Celebration. Visitors worldwide come to witness the blooms at their peak and enjoy farm tours, art classes, gallery exhibitions, workshops, and self-guided tours. Free. http://www.homeralaska.org/events/annual-events/homer-peony-celebration/
Seward Mount Marathon Race, July 3-4. The Mount Marathon Race, 5K or 3.1 miles with an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet, became an organized run in 1915 and has since become a key part of Independence Day celebrations in Seward. Watch men and women race the sharp steep slopes. https://mountmarathon.com/
Valdez Gold Rush Days, Aug. 2-6. Annual five-day celebration honoring the past, present and future of Valdez, with costumes, parade, ice cream social, open air market, games, contests, more. Money raised is donated to a variety of local charities and organizations, especially to those focused on children and the future of Valdez. http://www.valdezgoldrushdays.org.
Cordova Copper River Salmon Jam, July 14-15. Season your cast iron, dust your rolling pin, and fire up your grill for the annual Taste of Cordova potluck (Mt. Eyak Ski Area, July 15, 3-5 p.m.), featuring dishes made from locally harvested foods. Bring a dish of your own, or stop by to sample bite-sized servings. Artisan Market and musical performances, too. Free. https://salmonjam.org/
Haines Southeast Alaska State Fair, July 27-30. Contests, exhibitions, concerts, parade, Frisbee golf tournament, much more. Show off your special talent for the judges in the Alaska’s Got Talent Competition and winners in the adult and youth divisions qualify for the finals in Palmer in September. Fishermen’s Rodeo tests your net mending, gear baiting, survival suit donning skills for cash prizes. https://seakfair.org
Ketchikan Blueberry Arts Festival, Aug. 4-6. Enjoy the local musicians and performers, slug races, or pie-eating contest; enter your beard (real or created) to win fabulous prizes, and take in lots of amazing art. Handmade Human Powered Blueberry Boat Race in Thomas Basin, and the annual Richard Brautigan, Dick Whittaker and Lillian Ference Memorial Trout Fishing in America Poetry Slam, plus the Annual Gigglefeet Dance Festival. Free. http://www.ketchikanarts.org (search under “events”).
Wrangell Alaska Bearfest, July 26-30. In the heart of the Tongass National Forest, Wrangell is home to both black and brown bears. Bearfest celebrates these creatures and their natural habitat with cultural events, symposiums, various workshops including bear safety, photography and art. Schedule at http://www.alaskabearfest.org.
Delta Junction Deltana Fair and Music Festival, July 21-23. This year’s theme, “Where the Highway Ends, the Fun Begins,” includes a blueberry pie contest, the Pipeline Run, Miss Deltana and Cutest Baby Contest, live music, annual parade, more. There’s Dr. Crusberg’s Memorial Pet Show – if your pet does tricks, is adorable, enter them for free for a chance at stardom. Each year, the Forget-Me-Knot Quilters Guild members work to create a quilt to be raffled off that supports the guild’s effort to make and deliver quilts to Delta area residents who have suffered a loss as a result of a house fire. Seniors 60 and older, $7. http://www.Deltanafair.com
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, July 17- 28. Multi-disciplinary festival with classes in music, dance, theatre, visual arts, literary arts, culinary arts, and healing arts, FSAF brings in 120-plus guest artists from around the globe to afford Alaskans the opportunity to learn new artistic techniques. Whether you want to be part of a drum circle, learn to play the spoons, overcome stage fright, or take your singing to the next level, there’s a class for you at FSAF. Ticket prices vary. https://fsaf.org/
Fairbanks Tanana Valley State Fair, July 28 – Aug. 6. Fair theme: “Don’t Go Bacon My Heart.” The fair is the oldest in Alaska and farthest north in the United States. Dating back to at least 1926, events include the Baby Show, Most Attractively Decorated Booth, and the Giant Cabbage Contest. New events are The Competitive Exhibits Scavenger Hunt, track and field, The Alaska Heritage Day Fiddle Fest, Adult Hula Hoop Competition, and Fairbanks Has Talent. Aug. 2 is Senior Day, so don’t miss the fun. Tickets: Senior (60+) $8. Senior Season Pass, $40. http://www.Tvsfa.org.