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Alaska State Fair organizers expect big turnout Labor Day weekend

Joaqlin Estus

Sept. 2, 2016

  By JoaqlinEstus, KNBA

Last year, about 45-thousand people went to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on the first Saturday it was open.  Fair organizers say they’re expecting about that many again on each of the next three days [Saturday, Sunday, Monday] because there’s so much to see and do at the fair, and the forecast is calling for sunny weather.

This is the last weekend to visit this year’s State Fair in Palmer, where there are sights and activities to suit just about anyone’s interests. Thursday, several fair goers named their favorite things about the fair:  the rollercoaster; the atmosphere, which changes every year; and the rides.

The dress code is Alaska casual, but you may see a few people dressed in fun outfits or period costumes. Thursday, five women wore all-green -- dresses, feather boas and hats decorated with red flowers.

Credit Joaqlin Estus / KNBA
"Cabbage Fairies."

“We’re the cabbage fairies and we’re here today because it is Alaska Grown day. But normally we go to, like on Friday, we are at the cabbage weigh off,” said one. “And that’s how we got started, as entertainment at the cabbage weigh-off.”  

If you want to change your looks, you can get a temporary tattoo, get your face painted or get your hair dyed pink, purple, and green and styled to stick straight out. Here are some other fair favorites:  the Ferris Wheel, Reubens [sandwiches], the walking stick place; the animals; and the food, the food, and the food and booze.

In addition to hamburgers, hot dogs and cotton candy, you can get deep-fried  Mat-Su veggies, Alaskan seafood, fresh peaches and cream, and chocolate-dipped bacon on a stick.

Dean Phipps, director of marketing and communications for the Alaska State Fair, said concerts are also a big draw. Thursday’s main stage performer was rapper G Eazy. Phipps said the show was sold out, and many people came early to get good seats.

“There have been people lining up since one o’clock, which I can’t believe,” said Phipps. “The show starts at seven.”

Credit Joaqlin Estus / KNBA
People lined up as many as six hours ahead of the scheduled concert by rapper G Eazy in order to get good seats.

The first State Fair in Palmer was held in 1936, just a year after colonists were imported to farm the Mat-Su Valley. So produce and livestock competitions have long been a staple of the Fair. You can see award-winning fruits and vegetables, cattle, sheep, and goats. You can also ride a Percheron horse or see a Scottish Highland Bull.

“We have monkeys riding on sheepdogs herding sheep in the corral, and I’ve never seen that,” said Phipps. “It’s just fun.”

Credit Joaqlin Estus / KNBA
"Obsidian" is a Scottish Highland bull.

Another change is that the fireworks this year are Saturday, not Friday, night. And the weather, said Phipps, is different.

“We’ve never seen this much sunshine. We’re not quite used to it,” said Phipps. “So people like to come out when it’s nice, and they like to stay later. And there’s been some beautiful sunsets. So generally, it’s been a good fair. It’s been a fair that’s, there’s a lot of happy people who kind of seem like they’re enjoying it.”

The lineup from Friday through Monday includes a demolition derby, Monster trucks and a backhoe rodeo, as well as a fiddle contest and other performances by Alaskans.

The fair has a stage and gathering area celebrating Alaska Native cultures where you can watch a blanket toss, Native dance groups and performances, or buy Alaska Native arts and crafts.

Depending on when you go, admission is $7 or $8 dollars for youth and seniors, and $11 or $13 for adults. Children five and under get in free.