Persistent rain unable to dampen vendor morale as preparations continue for Alaska State Fair

Gates open Friday at 11 a.m.
Gates open Friday at 11am
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:17 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska State Fair opens this Friday as yet another sign that summer is ending and fall has begun.

Alaska State Fair CEO Jerome Hertel said Thursday that while the wet weather has made setup a little more difficult, they are right on track to open the gates at 11 a.m. on opening day.

“The barn’s filling up with animals. The exhibit halls are filling up with all the arts and crafts,” Hertel said. “Everything’s coming in pretty much on time, and as planned, so I feel like we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

The fairgrounds have been abuzz over the last couple of weeks in preparation for a season Alaskans always look forward to, with crews still getting structures and rides into place while vendors like Tyrone Thomas with Trueheart’s Blend set up their temporary shops. This is his ninth year selling his low-sodium seasonings at the state fair.

“We have a self-contained unit, so when we come in, we just drop the back door and we’re open for business,” Thomas said.

The Alaska State Fair will have something for everyone. Whether it’s rides, games, shopping, or individuals looking to eat their way through the festivities, all the classics are back including Mark Symond’s famous turkey legs at Gobbler’s Grille. Symond started selling the fair staple in Seward decades ago with a friend that used to do renaissance fairs.

“He was just a friend, and he said, ‘hey, let’s go down to Seward. They got this new thing called the Mountain Marathon,’” Symond recalled. “So we went down there with a 55-gallon drum cut in half, and we cooked up 400 bucks worth of turkey legs.”

While most individuals on the grounds were working toward setup, TJ Kelly with Espress Yourself coffee stand was already open for business for about a week, serving his fellow vendors. Kelly has been opening early for over 30 years so crews can get that desperately needed caffeine fix during setup.

Crews were working around the clock Thursday to finalize fair preparations.
Crews were working around the clock Thursday to finalize fair preparations.(AKNS)

“I love it. This is my family,” Kelly said. “I’ve spent literally years on this fairgrounds. We always do a week before; we’re usually out here a week or so after.”

The fair has a robust lineup of concerts this year, kicking off opening night with Caamp. Hertel said new security measures are in place to enter the concert area that prohibits bags, backpacks, purses, and public safety inspections. Hertel said this was primarily due to many of the band’s management requirements. Hertel recommended concert-goers arrive earlier than they have in the past to accommodate the new security measures.

Rain is forecasted for the opening weekend of the Alaska State Fair, but Hertel said that’s never stopped Alaskans in the past.

“We don’t like to look at it as the percentage of chance that’s going to rain, but perhaps the percentage of change that it’s not going to rain,” Hertel said. “There’s always a good chance that it’s not going to rain, and there’s a 100% chance that you’re going to have a good time out here at the fair, that’s for sure.”

The Alaska State Fair runs from Aug. 19 - Sep. 5 and will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.