From State Fair to Fungus Festival, August is harvest time
Late summer in Alaska is one of the best times to fill your belly. Freezers are filling with fish, and gardens that exploded under the Midnight Sun are producing the literal fruits that reward all that labor. Whether you have a green thumb or just an appetite, there are plenty of ways to get in on all the goodness that grows in Alaska this month.
For gargantuan gourds and freakishly large cabbages, the Alaska State Fair is the place to be Aug. 22 to Sept. 2. Watch records shatter as Alaska farmers put produce on the scales in the Giant Vegetable Weigh-offs. The competitions are an annual tradition and illustrate just how much can – and does – grow in Alaska’s soil during summer. Last year, Scott Robb’s 138-pound cabbage set a new world record.
If your gustatory predilections come deep-fried, the Fair is also the time to get elephant ears, turkey legs, funnel cakes, corn dogs and corn fritters. Or skip the oily goodness and show off your own cooking prowess. Battle for the blue ribbon in competitive categories for homemade pies, cookies, beer, chicken wings or canned goods. Of course, food fun is a mere slice of the Alaska State Fair, which also has tons of concerts, carnival rides and a moose calling contest thrown in for good measure.
This month we also enter prime berry picking season, so Alaskans will be out scouring the hills in search of blueberries, low bush cranberries, salmonberries and the like. Head to the Alyeska Blueberry Mountain Arts and Music Festival Aug. 10-11. Free lift rides will whisk you and your bucket up the mountain for berry picking on the slopes of Alyeska. Of course, there’s plenty to do back at the base too; the Blueberry Creations contest doles out prizes (and bragging rights) for the sweetest treats made with berries. Pig out at the pie-eating contest, or just listen to some live music while the kids enjoy pint-sized activities.
A few weeks later, Girdwood shifts from fruit to fungus as mushroom picking takes center stage at the Girdwood Fungus Fair Aug 30 to Sept. 2. Plan on plenty of foraging forays, talks by expert mycologists, and a mushroom-centric menu at the formal.
If you can’t make it to the foods at these events, there is one event that brings food to the heart of Anchorage. Every Thursday throughout the summer, the city’s mobile food vendors roll into the parking lot next to Chilkoot Charlies in Spenard for a food truck carnival. The roundup is small but delicious, featuring everything from cupcakes to chicken curry.