People gather in Ninilchik Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

People gather in Ninilchik Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Blues, brass, Cajun and local acts to perform at ‘eclectic’ Ninilchik festival

Salmonfest headliners include Old Crow Medicine Show, Sierra Ferrell, Leftover Salmon, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Jackie Venson, The Burroughs and the High Hawks

The headliners for Salmonfest 2023 were announced last week, completing a lineup of around 60 bands for the festival, set for Aug. 4-6 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik.

A release from the festival says that headliners include Grammy Award-winning Old Crow Medicine Show, American Music Award-nominee Sierra Ferrell, Leftover Salmon, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Jackie Venson, The Burroughs and the High Hawks. Local Alaska talent participating in this year’s festival are Medium Build, H3, Hope Social Club, Black Water Railroad Co. and the Roland Roberts Band.

“Our goal, every year, is to offer one of the most eclectic lineups that you’ll see in the country,” Assistant Director David Stearns said Wednesday. “This year could be the best representation of that.”

Sierra Ferrell, he said, is on a “meteoric rise.” He said she’s been selling out venues in the Lower 48, and that she’s going to be playing Salmonfest on her birthday. Stearns said that Ferrell and her group bring a “theatricality” to the stage that local folks may not have seen before.

Stearns also pointed to Texas’ Jackie Venson, a blues guitarist, as a strong and distinct inclusion to the lineup. Another very fun returning act, he said, is The Burroughs, who he described as “a brass party band” who have played Salmonfest before and gotten people up and moving.

Medium Build, leading up the local talent, was an “exciting” addition, Stearns said, as well as the “all-star band” the High Hawks and Tom Rigby, who bring a “wild, Cajun performance” that he promised would get people out of their seats.

It was a point of pride for Stearns that the audio technicians had to request additional time between acts to transition. He said that shows that the wide-reaching variety of acts — all gathered in Ninilchik — met that “eclectic” goal. He said that this year’s lineup was perhaps the “deepest” they’ve ever brought.

Salmonfest, Stearns said, can be something for everyone. He pointed to the diversity of music, the variety of vendors, food trucks, beer and wine, and to other attractions like art. He said this year they’ve put a lot of effort into adding more art installations and improving the onsite camping experience.

To view the lineup of artists, to purchase tickets or to reserve camping, visit salmonfestalaska.org.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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