Thousands of people — many clad in tie-dye and salmon paraphernalia — flocked to Ninilchik on Friday to celebrate salmon and sustainability under the summer sun. Salmonfest kicked off with a bang, luring patrons with multiple music stages, vendors galore and the finest food from around Alaska. Billed as “3 days of fish, love and music,” the event aims to raise awareness about salmon, environmentalism and other social issues.
While some lounged in the lawn in front of the Ocean Stage, others flitted between vendor areas, food trucks, face-painting stations and environmental displays. Greeting guests at the mouth of the festival’s north gate was a large sign reading, “What if Pebble Mine was at the headwaters of the Kenai River?” Another contained a quote from former Sen. Ted Stevens about Pebble Mine: “I’m not opposed to mining, but it is the wrong mine for the wrong place.”
Pebble Mine refers to a controversial mine located in Bristol Bay, which critics say pose a threat to the local salmon population.
To the sound of music performed at the festival’s Inlet Stage, patrons walked between booths near the festival’s entrance that focused on various social causes, including conservation, sustainability and abortion rights.
One of those vendors was Sarah McCabe. She is with the Anchorage chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a group that focuses on raising awareness about national climate issues by helping people contact their Congressional delegation. Standing in front of a sign reading “Climate Anxiety Counseling 5¢” McCabe said the group’s booth targets young people who want to become involved in larger climate issues.
“You can drive less, you can eat less red meat, you can turn the light off — all good things to do — but the problem is really the whole system,” McCabe said.
In all, more than 60 performers will take to four stages scattered around the festival grounds throughout the weekend. Headliners include Umphrey’s McGee and Shakey Graves, as well as Blackwater Railroad and the Roland Roberts Band, among others.
Salmonfest runs through Sunday at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik.