Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Grounds bustling as fair gears up


“Jousting” with foam lances, a “Zombie Run” and trapeze artists suspended by silk ribbons are new at the 44th Southeast Alaska State Fair, which runs to 4 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds.

In the puppet show tent Wednesday, Gene Kennedy worked on final details, including hanging curtains and lighting. “The theme is kind of a circus theme,” he said. Props and puppets of all sizes lay backstage, including a giant elephant head, a pair of gigantic clown shoes, and a bulldog that does math. “He’s new this year,” Kennedy said. “What’s one plus one?” he asked the dog, using its strings to move the puppet’s right paw up twice.

For seven years, Kennedy has been in the group that organizes the show. “I guess I’m a natural hambone, so I get to do my ham thing.” Kennedy will play a clown this year. “We get to make ourselves laugh and a bunch of other people laugh.” A four-member band will also play for the show. Children like the puppets and adults like the humor, he said. Four shows daily are scheduled through Saturday, with one performance Sunday evening. “There’s a lot of talent here,” and all the puppets were made in Haines.

Joe King and Daniel Klanott carved a totem pole that they’ll continue to work on during the fair. They’ve been working on it daily for about three weeks. “It’s flying by,” Klanott said. “It’s a mother in an ANS garment,” he said, pointing to the newly carved hat on the top of the pole. She’ll be standing over a little boy, King said, showing where on the unfinished pole the boy will be carved. This is about their sixth year carving at the fair. “It’s fun to get to meet new people and show them what we’re doing,” Klanott said. As they continued to carve, a few cruise ship tourists gathered around to watch.

Fair executive director Ross Silkman said preparation was going smoothly. “Everything’s working really well. We’re really excited.” He said there were “a couple of hiccups” putting together some of the older rides, like the carousel that dates to the 1920s. Kennedy, the puppeteer, repaired the vintage Ferris wheel by replacing a broken brake drum with one from a 1937 Ford axle he’d inherited years ago from the late Shorty Philpott, a collector of spare parts.

Replacing a part here and there is “all normal stuff,” said fair assistant director Jessica Edwards. She said she was happy with how things were going. “We’ve got 24 hours, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. Vendors are showing up, people are dropping off baked goods and flowers, things are going well.”

In McPherson Barn, pen doors were open and hay lay untouched. But that’ll soon change. “I’ve got five giant hens coming in today.” Other animals were due Thursday morning, including a Shetland pony, alpacas, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens and miniature horses. The barn will feature a petting zoo.

Clint Davis from Southeast Alaska Sound set up sound equipment on the far back side of the stage. Standing behind the giant soundboard, Davis plugged various cords together. It’s his fifth year doing the sound for the fair.

“I like it when I’m able to make everyone happy. If all the musicians are happy with the mix that I get them, I get satisfaction from that.” Working the sound during music performances can be chaotic, he said. “Sometimes I can be overrun with chaos. But when I can bring quick order to chaos, I’m happy.”

While many of the vendors’ booths were empty, Aimee Jacobson and her two young sons were at work, setting up the smoothie, French fries, chili, and tamale booth that Jacobson and Natalie Benassi run. This is Jacobson’s sixth year and Benassi’s third running the booth.

“What else, mom?” Jacobson’s son asked, as he carried a bin of supplies into the booth. “It’s (working the booth) so much fun, but at the same time, it’s so much work,” Jacobson said, as her other son handed her a small plastic container of tacks.

Food booths include ones by Mosey’s Cantina, Sarah J’s Espresso, and Fireweed Pizza. Another booth will have kettle corn, root beer floats, and ice-cream sundaes.

In the exhibit hall, a fair worker set up the flower display while others accepted exhibits to be judged. Artwork of all kinds, including photography and sewn, knitted, and quilted pieces were set up throughout the room. Judged on Saturday, multiple winning entries had blue and purple ribbons pinned next to them.

Pat Schultz, department champion and best-of-class winner in the quilting category, said she started working on her quilt several years ago. Schultz, from Sitka, said the round, stained glass-like creation turned out bigger than she’d planned. It includes blue, green, purple, and black patterns and is over six feet in diameter. “I hung it up on the bow of my boat to take a picture of it, and it went all the way to the water,” she said.

Mandy Kivisto, one of the best-of-class winners in photography, was “totally surprised” to hear that her black and white photograph of her dog on a Petersburg beach received best of class. Kivisto, of Petersburg, took the picture with her Cannon XSI while on a walk with her Dalmatian, Pepper.

“We were at Sandy Beach and it was low tide. She (Pepper) was bounding through the water and then just stopped.” That moment was just long enough for Kivisto to snap the picture of the dog staring off into the mountains. “I don’t know what she was looking at, but she was pretty intent for that moment. Then she started splashing and running again.”

There’s more going on at the fair than fits on the official schedule. Storyteller Tom Cosgrove will be spinning yarns for youths at the Kids’ Stage at 4 p.m. Friday.

Kite master Dave Nanney will be nearby, at the edge of the ball diamond, flying a variety of craft, including zebra-winged gliders and aerial stunt kites. “I’d like to give demos and lessons,” he said.

Nanney said he’s hoping to launch his “power kite,” featuring a 50-foot tail. “It takes some wind to fly it,” he said. He’s also looking for some volunteers to be “ribbon dancers” in Saturday’s fair parade down Main Street. Call him at 766-2763.

The National Guard will be set up in the Raven Arena. They’re planning to bring a helicopter and also a Nascar car, said fair assistant Edwards. For youngsters, the Guard will set up a climbing wall and an inflatable obstacle course.