Salmonstock festival celebrates wild Alaskan Salmon
To be an Alaskan is to have a connection to salmon.
Whether you’re a server at a restaurant offering it as the evening’s special, a commercial fishermen catching salmon to feed the world, or a subsistence fisherman harvesting salmon to put on the dinner table, the revered salmon plays a role in our everyday lives.
Salmon are as Alaskan as fireweed, brown bears and snow-capped mountains. They feed families, provide recreation for anglers and a living for harvesters.
To recognize the importance of wild salmon in our lives, livelihoods and future, the Renewable Resources Foundation, along with its sister organization the Renewable Resources Coalition is celebrating the fourth annual Salmonstock music festival, a three-day event whose focus is to highlight the invaluable role that salmon play in Alaska’s economy, ecology and culture.
“The event celebrates wild salmon and this amazing renewable resource we have available to us,” said Kate Huber, of the Renewable Resources Foundation.
This year’s Salmonstock not only celebrates everything special about Alaska’s wild salmon – but it also entertains. At the forefront of the festival is some of the most excellent music in Alaska and from the Lower 48.
“People will see some of the best music and musicians in the country during this one event,” said Jim Stearns of Homer, who organizes the annual music line-up.
The headline performer is Lucinda Williams, Stearns said. He has worked tirelessly over the past several months to organize performers, placing them at just the right places at just the right times.
“Lucinda Williams is one of the biggest acts we’ve ever had. She’s won three grammies and is excited to be coming to Alaska.” Stearns said of the annual music line-up, which features dozens of acts over four stages for three days. “We like to steadily ramp up the energy and musical intensity as the day goes on so we’ve got Lucinda scheduled for Saturday evening right when the show typically peaks.”
“It’s like alchemy in putting all the pieces of a show in place and then watching it come together in a big explosion of joy and creativity. It takes a lot of people; the staff, the bands, and everybody there to symbiotically come together and create a very memorable and magical weekend.”
Other highlights include Hardworking Americans – an energetic jam band – and Great American Taxi, who have graced the Salmonstock stages before and have become known as Salmonstock’s “house band.”
“These musicians become ambassadors to salmon issues affecting us,” Stearns said. “Great American Taxi has become very versed in the issues and we believe that has helped our cause.”
In its fourth year, Salmonstock is again aiming to entertain – and, when the opportunity arises – to educate. While there is no required reading, the event is truly the best place to find out about which issues are affecting salmon populations across the state.
“One thing we will be doing is educating about the Bristol Bay Forever Initiative,” Huber said, referring to Proposition 4, which will be on the November ballot before Alaska voters. The initiative is aimed at protecting the Bristol Bay area, the world’s largest wild salmon fishery, from such threats as the proposed Pebble Mine, which if completed would be one of the largest open pit mines in the world – located on the top of the headwaters of salmon habitat in Bristol Bay.
That said, the event is no lecture, she stressed.
“We incorporated our educational vendors throughout the festival, so people can visit them at their own pace.” Huber said.
Artists such as Ray Troll from Ketchikan, will be on hand to create new murals for the festival grounds and Homer’s Mavis Muller is planning to orchestrate yet another live aerial mural, a highlight of each Salmonstock Festival.
Children will have plenty to do, too, Huber added. Despite the similarity in moniker with the better-known wild party of Woodstock, Salmonstock is a family-friendly event with a Small Fry Play Area, art and educational activities and more.
Huber and Stearns agree: Salmonstock has become a valuable tool for not only attracting some of the top performers in the country, but also uniting them with a universal message: Alaska’s wild salmon are a precious resource to be appreciated, celebrated and above all, protected.
“We are growing every year with people coming from all over Alaska and out of state,” Huber said. “As people come from further away we expand the Salmonstock family, but have successfully kept the same positive Alaskan energy.”