Alaska Fair showcases Alaska singing talent, too
The annual Alaska State Fair is already well known for its giant vegetables, plethora of carnival rides and overabundance of snack foods guaranteed to pack on the pounds. This year, the fair is stepping up its lineup of entertainment, too, giving it just another reason to be known as the most must-attend event of the year.
Foreigner kicks off the AT&T Concert series at the Borealis Theatre, and watching spectators watching the band is sure to be a thrill. The highly anticipated arrival of these longtime rock and roll legends comes with a chance to get on the stage yourself – if you’re an Alaska high school student, that is.
The “Sing on Stage Live with Foreigner” contest gave 25 young singers the chance to perform one of Foreigner’s signature songs, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” live on stage with the band on Aug. 22 at the Fair. The public has selected 10 of the finalists by voting online, and the Fair and choir director will select the remaining 15 performers.
Entries were sent in by the end of July, and the voting is complete, but for spectators, it’s a chance to see their own Alaska version of “American Idol” or “The Voice.”
Also sure to be popular among music lovers is the addition of Kendrick Lamar and Bret Michaels to the Concert Series. After Neon Trees canceled its scheduled appearance, the Fair was able to fill the bill with rap and hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, and iconic rocker Bret Michaels, who will perform with “The Voice” runner up Terry McDermott.
And, rounding out the theme of American music talent shows, last year’s “American Idol” winner Phillip Phillips will perform, at 3 p.m. Sept. 2. The down-to-earth boy next door is sure to be a crowd pleaser with his hit “Home,” and “Gone, Gone, Gone.”
Alaska State Fair
The Alaska State Fair runs Aug. 22-Sept. 2, and features some well-known performers as part of its AT&T Concert Series at the Borealis Theatre. For a full list of the performers, go to Alaskastatefair.org. Here are some of the highlights.
Foreigner: 7 p.m., Aug. 22
Halestorm: 7 p.m., Aug. 23
Brantley Gilbert: 7 p.m., Aug. 24
Bill Cosby: 3 p.m., Aug. 25
Tenth Avenue North: 7 p.m., Aug. 27
Aaron Tippin: 7 p.m., Aug. 28
Kendrick Lamar: 7 p.m., Aug. 29
3 Doors Down: 7 p.m., Aug. 30
Brian Regan: 7 p.m., Aug. 31
Bret Michaels, with “The Voice” runner-up, Terry McDermott: 7 p.m., Sept. 1
Phillip Phillips (“American Idol” winner): 3 p.m., Sept. 2
Tickets range from $20 for general seating to $70 for reserved, and are in addition to Fair entry. Weekday Fair entry is $9 for tickets purchased before Aug. 21, $5 for youth (ages 6-12) and seniors. Tickets on Fridays through Sundays are $11 and $6, respectively.
Fat tire fun at Alaska Mountain Bike Championships
If you’re into taking trails on two wheels, save the date for the Alaska State Mountain Bike Championships, Aug. 22-25.
“Even though the title is a bit intense-sounding, the state championships are for everyone,” says race director Megan Piersma. “We encourage everyone to come out and race, whether you are a beginner rider or have been doing it for years. It’s a friendly, encouraging community and we’re always looking to add new members.”
There are four races from which to choose: the Hillside Hill Climb, Aug. 22; the Kincaid Short XC, Aug. 23; the Bartlett Short Track, Aug. 24; and the Hillside Long XC, Aug. 25. Sign up for as many or as few of the races as you like, and don’t worry about wading through a points system to earn your place in the race. Just sign up and show up.
Adult participants who register online pay $20 per race or $70 for the entire series; juniors (under 18) pay $5 per race or $15 for the series. Register on race day and you’ll pay $25 per/$85 series for adults, or $10 per/$30 series for juniors. Get course maps and additional information from the Arctic Bicycle Club Mountain Racing Division website, alaskamtb.blogspot.com.
Done racing? Don’t go home just yet. You can tank up on good food, raffle prizes, new friends – and of course the awards – at the awards party, 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 at the Abbott Loop Community Park Pavilion off Elmore Road.
— Lisa Maloney
Bountiful berries in our own backyard
If you buy your berries at the store, you’re doing it wrong. The alpine areas around southcentral Alaska are covered with blueberries free for the picking. Aside from their taste, size and abundance, the best thing about Southcentral’s prolific blueberries is that up where they grow, there’s not much you can confuse them with.
“If it’s sweet, it looks like a blueberry and it’s high in the alpine, it’s probably a blueberry,” says James Sowerwine, vice president of the Alaska Native Plant Society. That said, he adds, if you’re in any doubt as to what you’re picking, go with someone who knows the area (and berries) in question.
If you can beat the crowds, it’s still worth hitting well-known berry spots like the slopes around Arctic Valley and the Powerline trail in South Anchorage; Hatcher Pass; and the alpine areas around Girdwood. You’ll also find common crowberries in the same neighborhood – they’re a little bland on their own, but sweeter after the first snowfall or sitting in your freezer.
Because the berry hotspots are so well known, they might go quickly. Don’t despair, though. Sowerwine says if you’re willing to put in two or three miles of hiking to get outside the common picking areas, you’re almost guaranteed to find scads of berries in August and September. Other areas to explore include around Portage, farther south on the Kenai Peninsula, and the Glenn Canyon northeast of Anchorage.
Perhaps in recent years, you found your berry-picking ambitions crushed by geometrid moths – tiny white critters that munched their way through broad swathes of foliage, including blueberry plants. The good news is that the defoliation tends to go in three-year cycles, so hopefully this is the year the berry plants rebound.
Blueberries and crowberries are just the start of our local abundance. If you’re willing to put the money into a good berry book or, better yet, tag along with an experienced picker, brushy areas like Kincaid Park and Far North Bicentennial Park are prime picking ground for highbush cranberries, watermelon berries and red currants. You might also find the humble nagoonberry or cloudberry huddled at their feet, and damp areas like Whittier (hint, hint) are ripe with orange-pink salmonberries.
The bad news is that the deadly baneberry also comes in red (and white), and grows in the same areas as these other tasty options. Again, the safest course is to either tag along with someone who knows what they’re doing, or educate yourself with the help of a good berry guidebook. You’ll find a bibliography of useful plant guides on the Alaska Native Plant Society website, aknps.org. Or, better yet, join them and take part in their educational outings – before you know it, you’ll be the experienced berry picker everyone else wants to follow around.
— Lisa Maloney
Trail-building classes the key to longevity
Alaska Trails is working to preserve and build trails in Alaska that will stick around a long time. Earlier this year, instructor Mike Shields showed students from the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Division of Mining-Land-Water and HDR a variety of techniques to build trails in Alaska that will outlast the next century. The two-day course on trail design and layout is one of several the nonprofit Alaska Trails offers throughout the year.
Shields has worked on trails at Olympic National Park, Big Bend, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, North Cascades, Kings Canyon, Rocky Mountain and Denali. Since his retirement as Denali’s chief of maintenance in 1996, he has been a contractor providing training, trail layout, and technical consulting services from Alaska to West Texas and California to Colorado. In 2010 he received American Trails “State Trail Worker Award” (Alaska) for his efforts at training the next generation of trail builders.
To create long-lasting trails, Shields stressed sustainable design elements, grade reversals, control points and maps layout among other topics. Preparation and planning, he said, is key, and simply bushwhacking a path through a forest will not work.
Alaska Trails offers such classes periodically, and they are open not just to professionals, but to anyone who wants to learn to be good stewards of the land they oversee – whether it’s your own backyard trail or a National Forest project. For details on the class offerings, go to www.alaska-trails.org.
– Contributed by Steve Cleary, executive director of Alaska Trails