Thoughts of giant cabbages, award-winning jellies and end-of-summer concerts are the norm this time of year. This is when locales across the state celebrate their communities with fairs and festivals to ring in a new season.
ALASKA STATE FAIR
Top among them, of course, is the Alaska State Fair, which is by far the largest in the state and lasts the longest. This year’s fair, Aug. 23-Sept. 3, is held at the State Fairgrounds in Palmer and promises much of the same fun and festivities as in past years.
The fair has it all — rides, concerts, acrobats, animals, educational exhibits, record-setting giant vegetables and beautiful flower gardens. Live music is always a hit: Performers include Jonny Lang, Aug. 29; Stone Sour, Aug. 23; Three Dog Night, Aug. 26; Midland, Aug. 25; Juice Wrld, Aug. 30; Bishop Briggs, Aug. 31; Luke Combs, Sept. 1; and Lindsey Stirling Sept. 3.
The food, though, is one of the larger draws for those who love an excuse to pig out on not-so-healthy, but oh-so-lovely corn dogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, elephant ears, cream puffs, corn fritters and more. The fair this year has organized a “Digital Fairgoer” food guide to help streamline your eating adventure. This year’s far will have 69 food booths, so pace yourself accordingly.
Following trend, last year’s fair hosted its largest day on the second Saturday of the 12-day event, hosting 44,113 fairgoers. Ever popular is the monster truck show, which attracted 6,055 spectators in 2017, as well as the concerts, which drew nearly 21,000 concert-goers.
The Fair is open weekdays noon-10 p.m., weekends, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., and Labor Day, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission is $30 to $60 depend- ing on the day, age, etc. or $8 to $13 per day, depending on same. (alaskastatefair.org)
TANANA VALLEY STATE FAIR
To the north is Fairbanks’ version of the state fair, the Tanana Valley State Fair, which is set for Aug. 3-11, and held on a 100-acre parcel of fairgrounds off College Road. The Tanana Valley State Fair was founded July 7, 1924, and is considered the oldest fair in the state. The nonprofit Tanana Valley State Fair Association has been managing events since 1993.
This fun, community event features tasty fair food, livestock shows, rides and plenty of live music. The headliner is the Little River Band (tickets are $30), a top band from the ’70s that has never really lost its cool in the years since. The band plays Aug. 9. Other performances to anticipate include Austin Burke (Aug. 3), Rose’s Pawn Shop (Aug. 7), Dawn McClain (Aug. 8) and Marty Brown (Aug. 10).
Also popular at the Tanana Fair is the rodeo, which draws one of the largest crowds of the 10-day event. Rodeo tickets are $15 for those 9 and older, $13 for seniors/military and free for those 8 and younger.
Fair rates range from $5 to $35, but there are multi-day and family discounts, and a Groupon offer for 30 percent off (go to Groupon.com for details). The fair will be open every day from noon to 10 p.m., with the exception of Fridays and Saturdays, when the hours are noon- midnight. (tananavalleyfair.org, 907-452-3750)
KENAI PENINSULA FAIR
The folks down in Ninilchik will just be coming off the ever-popu- lar Salmonfest celebration when it then kicks off its Kenai Peninsula Fair, held at the fairgrounds just off the Sterling Highway. This year’s fair is set for Aug. 17-19, and includes a carnival, rodeo, and special entry days on Red Shirt Friday and Kids Day (free entry on Aug. 17 with canned food donation).
The wildly fun pig racing is held daily (1, 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.) and well worth the time and effort to watch. There’s also a parade on Saturday, Aug. 18. Entertainment includes 4th and Main, Blackwater Railroad, Hobo Jim, Grant Farm and Dan the Sword Swallower.
Be sure to check out the over 800 exhibits to compete for blue ribbons and bragging rights for the coming year. The Western-style rodeo with bull riding and the Backwoods Girl competition are also a hoot.
Fair rates range from $5 for children to $35 for a family day pass. The fair will be open every day from noon to 10 p.m., with the excep- tion of Fridays and Saturdays, when the hours are noon-midnight. (Kenaipeninsulafair.com)