The Southeast Alaska State Fair saw decreased ticket sales this year as ongoing ferry workers’ strikes suspended service to Haines throughout fair weekend.

Since Wednesday, July 24, a strike led by the largest ferry workers’ union in Alaska, the Inland Boatman’s Union (IBU), has docked all 10 of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s (AMHS) fleet. AMHS has lost $3.1 million in passenger refunds and cancelled reservations for 7,832 passengers as of Tuesday evening.

“We were down about 393 in total passes sold, which includes the four-day and day-passes,” executive director of the fair Kari Johnson said in an email. “We definitely incurred more expenses, due to having to purchase more flights to get entertainment here.” Johnson said she won’t have more exact figures until later this month.

The fair bought a combination of plane tickets and Alaska Fjordline tickets for 21 of its performers. Of the vendors who came to Haines, Johnson said only one has been stranded: Chris Peterson, owner and operator of Peterson’s Pretzels, from Juneau.

“The first opportunity I have (to return to Juneau) is going to be Aug. 15, assuming the ferries are running,” said Peterson, the earliest date he could make a reservation.

Until then, Peterson said he doesn’t mind waiting in Haines. He has parked his pretzel truck outside of Miles Furniture on Main Street, where his pretzels are selling out in less than three hours every day.

“It’s been exceptional,” he said. “I’m doing better here than I do in Juneau.”

Alaska Seaplanes more than tripled its flights on Sunday during fair. “We flew close to 200 passengers from Haines to Juenau on Sunday,” Alaska Seaplanes general manager Carl Ramseth wrote in an email.

Ramseth said on Thursday 21 different flights landed in Haines and 28 flights landed on Sunday. “The higher volume of flights has leveled out a bit after the fair ended, but we continue to fly about twice as many flights on some of our routes,” he said.

Of boats that serve Lynn Canal, the Columbia and Malaspina ferries are currently cancelled through Aug. 7 and 4 respectively. The LeConte and Tazlina ferries are cancelled through Aug. 2.

The IBU represents 430 ferry workers. The union last went on strike in 1977 for 20 days. Just over a week after the IBU launched this strike, both the state and the union say they are eager to resolve the issue.

On Friday, Commissioner of the Department of Administration Kelly Tshibaka spoke during a teleconference, calling the ferry workers’ strike illegal, because it was “predicated on an illegal provision.”

“We’re all being affected, and (the strike) was completely unnecessary. There’s a lot of political agenda,” Tshibaka said.

Over the weekend, the state and the IBU met with a federal mediator for 20 hours. The mediator suggested the state and the IBU adhere to a 48-hour gag order as negotiations continue, said IBU vice president Robb Arnold.

“We had some positive things going on, but we kind of got bogged down, so our mediator kind of thought it would be best if we talked later,” Arnold said on Monday.

By Wednesday, July 31 Arnold was more optimistic: “So far so good. I think it’s great that we’re at the table.” He said the IBU’s goal is to get back to work as soon as possible. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re here to make a deal.”

The state has warned repeatedly in statements that if strikes continue through Aug. 1, workers will have to pay the cost of their health insurance premiums, between $1,000 and $2,700 a month.

“If the strike continues past August 1, then the premiums for all of the employees’ health insurance can’t be covered by the state. This is really concerning for me, because it’s a really expensive premium,” commissioner Tshibaka said last Friday.

Press Secretary for Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Wednesday that “Having the IBU conclude the strike doesn’t mean that ferry service will resume service immediately…They would have to normalize the system in order to resume service.”