Roadtrippin’ 2023: Kodiak Crab Festival

Roadtrippin' 2023: The history of Kodiak's Crab Festival
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 7:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - One of the biggest draws to Kodiak this time of year is the Kodiak Crab Festival, which serves as the island’s summer kick-off. With five days of festivities all leading up to Memorial Day, this year’s theme is ‘bringing Kodiak together for 65 years.’

“It’s a culmination of school ending, and summer beginning, and our fishing fleet going out for salmon fishing and crab season ending as well,” festival manager Jena Lowmaster said.

There are games, races, competitions, dozens of vendors this year — and it all started to celebrate the end of crabbing season, hence the name.

It’s been a calendar staple to Kodiak since 1958, only back then, it was called the King Crab Festival, getting it’s start as a small celebration for a big emerging industry.

“It was a way for Kodiak to promote the crabbing industry to people outside of Kodiak and Alaska as a whole, and really give the opportunity to the rest of the world a broader experience of what crab is,” Lowmaster said.

But eventually the king crab industry in Kodiak declined and other crab fisheries grew, so the ‘king’ was dropped from the name to become the Kodiak Crab Festival that it is today.

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“We do have a couple of crab vendors this year, and we always have some sort of crab. Unfortunately we don’t have as much crab as we used to over the years, but it’s more about the offerings that the fishing industry brings to the community, and the offerings that the sea gives to the Kodiak community as a whole,” Lowmaster said.

This year, there are some newer faces to the market — but it was quite the journey to get here. Ben Bacher, owner of Expedition BBQ says it was a journey well worth it.

“The ferry trip was a little tumultuous, 2 to 4 a.m. was rough for sure,” Bacher said. “I was glad they pulled into the bay to keep us safe from the waves. It’s such a unique thing to be able to throw this on the ferry and sail it to an island in the middle of Alaska and serve barbecue. It’s pretty unique.”

And even though there’s no rides this year, there’s still some fun activities for everyone to enjoy.

“Kodiak has a very strong sense of community, and getting out and supporting everybody, and it’s a great time to get out, have a great time, go our and enjoy the parade rain or shine,” Lowmaster said. “Honestly, this is my third or fourth Crab Fest and people come out when it is sideways rain, no matter what. So everyone does come out, you put your rain gear on, and it’s a good time.”

Thursday marks the first day of the festival, but there are plenty of fun activities on tap over the next few days, including traditional Alutiiq dance performances, a fishermen memorial, the popular survival suit race, and of course the grand parade on Saturday.