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Cotton candy and Kendrick Lamar: Alaska State Fair begins in Palmer

Jerzy Shedlock
Allan Kendall gets ready to dig into curly fries at the Alaska State Fair, which started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A goat looks for attention on the opening day of the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Sherri Mulhaney works at Alaska Soda Jerk, which is in its second year at the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Even geese get in on the fun at the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Sherri Pfeil gives a henna tattoo to Lauren Kubla. Pheil has been a henna artist at the fair for 13 years. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Lonely hula hoops lie unused in the rain at the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Paul Godwin, an umbrella hat salesman, whose sales pitch is "why be practical when you can be ridiculous?" The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
With rain in the forecast, expect to see lots of umbrella hats at the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Sarah Fleming and her daughter Brynn Fleming-Harris with freshly painted faces. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
A BMX bike performer at the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Ava Cohen and her mom Susanna Philippoussis, visiting from New Jersey, get a hot chocolate from Kitty Mahoney at the Kaladi booth. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Remy the rat gets yelled at by gamblers at the Elks Club Rat Race booth. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Flying Bob's, one of the more kid-friendly rides at the fair. The Alaska State Fair started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Balloons aplenty at the Alaska State Fair, which started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Cavallo Equestrian Arts performes at the Alaska State Fair, which started today and runs through September 2. August 22, 2013
Loren Holmes photo

Turkey legs, giant cabbages, lumberjacks, and carnival rides. The Alaska State Fair is back, nestled in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and set against the backdrop of the Chugach Mountains. This year’s fair takes place August 22 through September 1.

The fairgrounds are located an hour’s drive north of Anchorage at mile 40 on the Glenn Highway, which every year is flooded with traffic coming from Alaska’s largest city. But Alaskans from on and off the road system shuffle through the summer festival’s hundreds of vendors.

There is a lot to do, but many attendees make the trip strictly for the food. Favorites are returning, like Alaskan Elephant Ears, deep-fried batter smothered in powdered and cinnamon sugar, honey, berries or cream cheese; Cajun Cookin’s jammin’ jambalaya, fried jumbo and deep-fried pickles; or Phyllis’s Café bread bowls. Just remember the antacids.

When you finish stuffing yourself, there are a long list of events to attend.

One of the fair’s biggest draws is the music acts, and this year’s lineup ain’t too shabby. On the fair’s first night, the British-American rock band Foreigner graced the stage. The band has sold 80 million albums worldwide thanks to hits like “Jukebox Hero” and “Cold as Ice.” If country gets your hips movin’, check out Brantley Gilbert on Saturday, August 24. The musician is likely best known for his hit “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.” The surprise act this year is Kendrick Lamar, an up and coming rapper from Compton, Calif. Lamar’s first commercial release, “good kid, m.A.A.d city” was a 2013 Billboard Music Awards top rap album nominee. He’ll be spittin’ hot fire Thursday, August 29.

Bill “Kids Say the Darndest Things” Cosby will be making folks chuckle at the fair come Sunday. The tickets are costly, however, at $40 for general admission.

Motor sports, a fair staple, begin Friday. The Amateur and Youth Supercross at 6 p.m. is free for the kiddos, $10 for the rest of us. And on Saturday, the 6th Annual Alaska Supercross kicks off, featuring a “best whip” contest and freestyle show with X-Games medalist Corey Davis. That show is $20 for adults and $10 for youth.

If dirt and dare devils don’t float your boat, perhaps a glimpse of ancient Egypt will satiate your historical hunger. Free with fair admission, King Tut: Wonderful Things From the Pharaoh’s Tomb exhibit features a collection of reproduced artifacts from King Tutankhaten’s resting place. The more than 130 replicas of Tut’s personal possessions, along with associated artifacts from the time period of his reign, shed light on the life and times of Egypt’s most famous pharaoh.

Ancient history is for bookworms and biographers, you say? Well, a lesson in horticulture is close by. Alaska farmers go head-to-head during two of the fair’s most popular events. Tuesday, August 27, is the Midnight Sun Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Two years ago, the largest orange-yellow fruit weighed in at a whopping 1,287 pounds. The giant cabbage weigh-off takes place on Friday, August 30. Last year, farmer Scott Robb set a new Guinness World Record with his 138.25 pound cabbage.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the 2013 Alaska State Fair. A daily schedule is viewable at the fair’s website. Travel options are outlined on the site, too.

General admission to the fair is $12 on weekdays, $14 on weekends for adults, and $7 and $8 for kids, respectively.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com