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


Foundations plan bear festival


Two local nonprofits are pairing up to launch a Haines festival dedicated to celebrating the town’s bears.

The Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation and the Great Bear Foundation will hold the Celebration of Bears Fair Aug. 15 and 16. The free event will feature activities, educational demonstrations and entertainment at several locations, including Harriett Hall, the ANB Hall and Tlingit Park.

Chilkoot Bear Foundation president Pam Randles said the foundation board started kicking around the idea of a festival about a year ago. “We’re trying to help the public understand how best to behave and how best to enjoy the bears without causing difficulties for themselves or the bears,” Randles said.

Human-bear interactions on the Chilkoot River have become problematic in recent years, with people antagonizing, baiting and approaching the bears. Increased vehicle traffic and tour trips in the river corridor also have made human-bear interaction more frequent.

Foundation director Dick Folta said education is the primary goal of the festival. Folta, who also owns property on Lutak Road, said the board decided to put the festival on the weekend of a Canadian holiday to draw Haines’ northern neighbors to town.

“We have some difficulties with the younger Canadians coming down and their interactions with the bears,” Folta said.

Great Bear Foundation executive director Shannon Donahue said the festival will include interactive demonstrations like “good campsite/bad campsite,” how to use bear spray and “critter gitters,” how to put together and dismantle an electric fence, and how to bear-proof containers.

Other events include a performance by Native dancers, Tlingit bear storytelling and a presentation by Donahue about the dynamics between humans, bears and salmon. There will also be a “Bear Fare” potluck featuring food consumed by both humans and bears and a bear-themed improvisational sketch comedy show, Donahue said.

A final schedule will be available in the next couple weeks, Donahue said.

The nonprofits are advertising the festival on the radio in Whitehorse and in local media, and will be distributing informational flyers throughout the region to drum up attendance.

The festival is seeking donations from local businesses. To donate or volunteer, contact Donahue at 766-2024.