Alaska News

Scenes from the Alaska State Fair: Cosmic hair and running gerbils

PALMER — People packed into the Alaska State Fair on a gorgeous late summer Saturday, stretching traffic back to the intersection of the Parks and Glenn highways.

Here's a couple scenes from a busy day at the fair.   

Cosmic hair

From a cluster of booths near the midway, music pulsed out of the "Cosmic Hairdoos" connex.

A disco ball spun inside. Every few minutes, a kid emerged with a sparkling mohawk or a twisted bun dyed the colors of the rainbow.

[How to get to the Alaska State Fair by car, train or bus]

Allison Ingram runs a private hair studio out of her home in Wasilla. But for 11 years, Ingram has decked out the connex for what she calls a "12-day chick clubhouse" of face-painting and hairstyling at the fair.


When she was a kid, Ingram always wanted to get her hair done at the fair. Her mom wouldn't let her, she said. But years later, when she found out that the fair's stylist was closing down her operation, Ingram decided to start her own.

Ingram is a huge Grateful Dead fan. She once drove a bus she dubbed "Cosmic Charlie," after the song.

"I name everything cosmic-something," Ingram said, in between spraying 7-year-old Emma Rodriguez's head purple. Look closely, and skulls and crossbones pop up in different places around the truck-trailer.

Ingram fluffed up a bun at the back of Rodriguez's head. The bun tilted to the right off Rodriguez's head. Ingram calls the hairdo "the Eclipse."

How was Emma's mom, Kathryn, going to wash it out later?

"I don't know!" she said, with a stricken smile.

Ingram came to the rescue: "Shampoo and baking soda."

Anyone want a worn-out gerbil?

For the crowd placing bets at the decades-old Palmer Elks Lodge "Rat Race" on Saturday, Exalted Ruler Wayne Fleming of the lodge had a tip.

"You have to channel yourself into the mind of this rat and figure out where she's going," Fleming said.

A fixture at the fair, the Rat Race doesn't actually involve rats or racing. White gerbils scurry around a spinning wheel and disappear into colored holes around the edge. People place bets to guess what color hole he chooses.

Fleming pulled on the rope to lift up a box from the center of the wheel. A white gerbil sat there.

It seemed frozen for a second. Then the gerbil scurried to the site and vanished down one of the holes.

Fleming advised onlookers that a bet cost 50 cents, on as many colors as one wanted.

"If you're one of those people that just has to win, bet on every color," Fleming said. "We actually love the people that just have to win."

Behind him, the wall advertised the recipients of the charity, including Wasilla Youth Baseball and the Palmer Food Bank.

For the past year, someone took care of the gerbils, Fleming said.


But this year, he said, unless another person steps up, the gerbils will end up going to families at the fair.

"We start to let everyone know," Fleming said. "We're still hoping someone offers to keep them for us. Makes it a lot easier."

Someone joked about pet boas.

Fleming turned his attention back to the spinning wheel. In a few minutes, the gerbil, Snowflake, was going to get a rest, and a new one would come in. 

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.