PALMER -- Rain pounded the Alaska State Fair grounds on Thursday morning, but by noon, when the gates opened for the first day of the fair, skies lightened and precipitation eased to a bare drizzle. While sprinkles continued for the rest of the day, it wasn't enough to keep the pavement wet.
As usual, traffic was relatively light on opening day. But a line formed at the "Our Body: Live Healthy" display at the Don Sheldon Events Center. That facility, which in previous years has housed showings of reptiles and kangaroos, is the site of an exhibit of preserved human specimens intended to illustrate the construction and functions of the body. It includes 12 complete cadavers with portions removed to show anatomical details, a skeleton and removed human skin, with several limb and organs displayed separately.
The exhibit, sponsored by the Mat-Su Health Foundation and Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, is free, but if the anticipated crowds show up, tickets may be required to enter at certain times. The tickets may be picked up outside the Sheldon Center. It is recommended for viewers age 12 and older, in part due to the fact that the mostly male bodies are nude. However many families with much younger children were seen at the exhibit on Thursday.
The picturesque log cabin food booths appear to be safe for the time being. Last year some vendors were alarmed by reports that the state fire marshal might require them to be closed over safety concerns.
The issue was re-examined in light of the booths historic and sentimental value, Fair media contact Kristi Holta said, and there is no longer any threat that they will be closed.
"It's really not an issue any more," Holta said. "(Vendors) have made whatever upgrades they needed to make. We're told that should solve this problem."
Concerns over swine flu transmitted by livestock have led to special precautions at fairs in the Lower 48, but are not an issue in Alaska, officials at the State Fair livestock barn said. All animals at the Palmer fair are inspected by veterinarians as they are brought in. A number of hand sanitation stations are set up near the petting zoo and those touching animals are encouraged to use them.
The fair will continue through Sept. 3. Highlights this weekend will include the Alaska State Fair Rodeo at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. More information is available at alaskastatefair.org.