The Southeast Alaska State Fair seems to have hit its stride. By gradually adding rides, expanding participatory events (like this year’s Zombie Run and Wearable Art Show), and offering a diversity of entertainment, fair organizers have arrived at a formula that attracts and holds a crowd and appears financially sustainable.
Mayan-themed parade floats, clouds of soap bubbles and a captivating show by the Haines puppet theater added sparkle to this year’s event. Bravo.
A question for the fair board -- and the community -- is where to go from here. The fair is an attractive product. Besides fine tuning, efforts could be made to promote it more aggressively through the region. Although we call it the “Southeast Alaska State Fair,” many others in Southeast know it as the “Haines Fair.” More exposure could bring more participation in the fair, as well as more financial support.
But as the fair already swamps the capacity of local lodging and stretches other services, perhaps a better alternative in the near term is maintaining the fair at its current size while developing other events.
The fair, brewfest and Kluane-Chilkat bike relay have proved to be good lures for attracting visitors from the nearby and relatively affluent capital cities of Juneau and Whitehorse, Y.T. Mayor Stephanie Scott has said she’d like to see big events here monthly. Members of the Downtown Revitalization Committee recently discussed a “Coho Festival” to coincide with crowds of Canadian fishermen who come each fall. Others have talked of a “Canada-Haines Friendship Days” event.
Our town is becoming a favorite destination for people in the region. How best to capitalize on that is worth discussing.
Among the hip, young set, service groups like the Emblem Club and American Legion Auxiliary may seem like corny throwbacks to a bygone era. That’s too bad.
In Haines, such groups have pumped money into worthy causes for decades. They boast an impressive history of helping residents in crises and of fostering activities for children and scholarships for young adults. What’s more, many of their members are long-time, year-round residents who know the town and how to get things done.
Some of these groups may not be adapting quickly enough to changing times, but their missions are vital and they help build community. Hopefully, this week’s meeting of the groups -- that addressed common problems and sharing volunteers -- was the first step toward reinvigorating them.
-- Tom Morphet