The 44th annual Southeast Alaska State Fair kicks off Thursday, Aug. 26, starting at noon with live performances and ending with an evening square dance and talent contest.
Children’s activities, a puppet show, and a barn load of animals also are on the day’s schedule. Residents are encouraged to come on opening day when the pace around the grounds is more casual, said Jessica Edwards, assistant fair director.
Southeast’s Got Talent! contest is an expected highlight. It’s a chance to see the talent in our community, Edwards said. “You never know who can sing or dance.”
Variety is welcome. Contestants can showcase their comedic or weightlifting talents, Edwards said. “They can be silly and they can be serious.”
Because many contestants sign up at the last minute, Edwards said she doesn’t know what exactly to expect. Several singers and at least one dance group are already registered. She’s hoping for 12-20 acts. The competition is open to adults and kids. Last year, 15 entered.
In addition to a first-place, cash award of $500, the winner will qualify for the “Alaska’s Got Talent” state competition in Palmer on Sept. 3.
Judges will include Yukon singer-songwriter Nicole Edwards; Jeromey Bell, also a singer and musician, and Alex Sage Guess, former Haines resident and “a real lover of music.”
The contest also is “meant to be very supportive,” Edwards said. It gives amateur performers the opportunity to perform on stage with real lights and sound equipment. “It’s a neat experience.”
Last year’s winner, Emily Ross, will perform on the main stage before the contest starts.
Local and out-of-town bands will perform at Payson’s Pavilion throughout the day. “I think the music line-up for Thursday is pretty strong,” Edwards said.
Fairbanks-based “Annie Where the Sun Don’t Shine,” will be performing at the fair for the first time. In addition to judging the talent contest, Nicole Edwards also will perform.
Before the talent contest, fairgoers can square and line dance to live “old time” music performed by the local five-member band Sweet Sunny North. Band member Tom Heywood said everyone is welcome to dance, regardless of age or ability. “You can be a total beginner. It’s just a fun dance.” Square dance caller Gene Kennedy will be calling out the steps.
Kids’ games, a puppet show, and barn animals will add to the fun on opening day. Edwards said the puppet show tends to sell out during the later days of the fair so she encourages locals who want to see it to come Thursday.
Edwards said she was hoping to resurrect the fair horse show for the fair this year, but was unable to recruit regional riders.