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