To the editor:

What is the point of Salmonfest? To celebrate salmon, enjoy live

music, delicious food and tasty drinks in the company of friends and

family? To feel connected with other Alaskans, promote local art and

business? To have fun? Or is it an excuse to spend the weekend high on

drugs and alcohol?

I don't really know anymore.

Dozens of people used the Sober Tent to take a break from the

shit-show. One woman came to escape grabby people groping her body.

How many women are groped and/or verbally molested during the

festival? Others came for a safe place for kids, information on ways

to pursue sobriety, or to take pictures with the sign to show sober

friends who stayed. Dozens thanked us for providing a sober option,

and I would like to thank Jim Stearns for promoting recovery.

During my early afternoon Zero Waste shifts, I couldn't help but

notice stumbling adults and teenagers high on who knows what, security

guards chugging beers on shift, and people still drunk from the night

before. Children stood outside the tent watching parents drink; others

went in to be with their parents.

After dark, packs of wild teenagers ran around unsupervised while too

many adults were too intoxicated to care. Creepers prowled and drug

pushers found victims.

As a lifelong Alaskan, I love salmon, listening to live music, eating

delicious food, drinking tasty non-alcoholic drinks, feeling connected

to other Alaskans and spending time with friends. Yet I am appalled by

the acceptance and promotion of drugs and alcohol at Salmonfest. I am

not trying to sound like an old prune, heck, I am a 35 year-old

skateboarder who still loves to party. But it is a shame to think that

the only way to have fun anymore is by using drugs.

I see the positive sides of the festival and look forward to it every

year. I recognize responsible parents ensuring the safety of their

teens; hundreds of happy children playing with parents in the kid

zone; people enjoying tasty drinks while enjoying the music; speakers

between bands talking about mines and salmon; passionate folks

representing various organizations informing the public about the

importance of our signatures, our votes, and our voices. I am thankful

for these things; however, I am concerned that the positive is being

overshadowed by the negative, and I need to use my voice.

While we live in the most beautiful part of the natural world, our

state is polluted by drug and alcohol abuse. Rape is 2.5 times higher

than the national average! People move here and come to visit not only

because of the landscapes, but because of the kindness and

friendliness of our people. We Alaskans are good folks, but many of us

have problems with drugs and alcohol. I know I do! We need to stop

promoting the "coolness" of being high and start promoting the

"coolness" of being morally responsible.

Thank you for reading, until next year,

— Bob Stark

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