WASILLA — The Alaska State Fair announced its alternative to the conventional season canceled this year due to CODID-19, Harvest Fest as a part of its “last blast” of summer events.
“That was a devastating blow to us," Alaska State Fair CEO Jerome Hertel said. “You could say we've taken bits and pieces of the fair and spread it throughout the month... with limited capacity and social distancing.”
Harvest Fest, scheduled for Labor Day weekend, is a scaled-down, outdoor event aiming to retain as many pieces of the fair experience as possible while prioritizing safety for all.
“It’s gonna be a great community event," Hertel said.
According to Hertel, this smaller event harkens to the fair’s “agricultural roots,” with events, vegetable exhibits, vendors, and entertainment-focused on agriculture, livestock, Alaskan products and produce, and local talent all on display.
“It’s going to feel more like an old-time fair,” Hertel said.
The maximum capacity for the Harvest Fest is going to be around 2,000 people, according to Hertel. He said it’s part of their ongoing going efforts to safely host smaller events that carry on fair traditions of the Alaska State Fair while minimizing health risks.
“We feel good about the event right now as it stands,” Hertel said.
Hertel indicated the safety of festival guests, vendors, staff, and volunteers has been their top priority when planning these events. He said people need to purchase tickets ahead of time online and they will cap attendance to allow adequate social distancing.
“We want to keep people adequately spaced on the grounds," Hertel said.
He noted that fair organizers are working closely with the state’s health recommendations and they’re calculating social distancing occupant loads based on FEMA methods.
Though extra safety precautions have been taken, fair officials are ready to tighten their efforts or outright canceled events should circumstances be deemed hazardous, according to Hertel.
“We just have to reserve that right to limit capacities should conditions worsen,” Hertel said.
Harvest Fest will include some of the popular events and exhibits people expect each year, including the giant cabbage and pumpkin weigh-offs, tractor displays, and the Junior Livestock Auction benefitting children and teens in the 4-H program. There will also be several agriculturally inspired games competitions like the scarecrow and goat milking contests and working dog demonstrations.
Harvest Fest falls in line with the fair’s last summer events of the season. The fairgrounds will bustle with activity during other events at different dates held by some of their staple partners including a separate carnival from Golden Wheel Amusements and rodeo hosted by Rodeo Alaska.
All upcoming events will take place outdoors throughout the grounds.
Harvest Fest is scheduled for Labor Day weekend, from Friday, September 4 through Sunday, September 6 from 12 to 8 p.m. Admission is $6 per person, and children 5 are admitted for free. Parking is free. Tickets must be purchased online or by phone prior to the event.
Golden Wheel’s “Hometown Jamboree” is from Aug. 8 to Aug. 23 with Mondays and Tuesdays off.
The Rodeo Alaska event runs from August 28 to Aug. 30.
The fair is hosting the adaptive Food Truck Fare to support local vendors Wednesdays and Saturdays through August 1, giving locals the chance to show up for their favorite food trucks.
Hertel said they’re planning to bring back their pop-up drive-in movie showings this fall and they also plant to host the Bright up the Night holiday light display from November to January. He said people can still expect event more ideas down the road as they continue to creatively come up with ways to offset their losses and prepare for next year.
Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 is asked to remain home and visitors are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
“We’re looking at all these alternatives… We’re pretty confident,” Hertel said. “It will be a challenge and struggle to get us there to next year that’s for sure without those revenues this year… just trying to get through to next year and to get to the end of this pandemic.”
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com
Highlights of the festival schedule include:
Alaska State Fair Junior Market Livestock Auction
Giant cabbage, giant pumpkin & large vegetable exhibits
Tours & demonstrations of the recently opened Historical Rebarchek Agricultural Park
Fair garden tours
Classic car show
Working dog demonstrations
Goat milking contest
Cow and goat milking demos
Agriculture-related games and activities