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Celebrate the season: Here’s your 2018 Alaska summer festival guide

  • Author: Yoshina Okamoto
  • Updated: May 17
  • Published May 17

Fans raise their hands during Jewel’s performance at Salmonfest Sunday, August 6, 2017, in Ninilchik. (Rugile Kaladyte / Alaska Dispatch News)

Put your down jacket in storage and say good riddance to our dragging, blustery spring, Alaska: festival season is upon us.

From a mermaid festival in Seward to an electronic dance music oasis in Willow, not to mention mainstays like the Alaska State Fair and Salmonfest, there's something for just about everyone here. Celebrate summer with friends, family, live music and more at festivals happening all over the state.

Seward Mermaid Festival

May 18-20, Seward

Head to the Seward Mermaid Festival to learn about ocean conservation while having a good time. Enjoy live music from Blackwater Railroad Company and other local favorites, a mermaid and pirate pub crawl, food and art vendors and more. (sewardmermaidfestival.com)

Spenard Jazz Fest

May 19-June 3, Anchorage

Featuring musicians from Alaska and Seattle, the Spenard Jazz Fest is a celebration that will include jazz workshops, a bluesy breakfast and performances by Duende Libre, the John Damberg Latin Jazz Quintet, Melissa "Jazzmom" Fischer and more. Get your name on the list to score an invite to one of their exclusive house concerts. (spenardjazzfest.org)

Spenard JazzFest Director Yngvil Vatn Guttu, left, and saxophone player Nelson Felix Jr.of Fairbanks are both in the lineup for the 10th annual event. (Robert Curtis-Johnson)

Kodiak Crab Festival

May 24-28, Kodiak

The Kodiak Crab Festival began in 1958 and it's still kickin' today. Spend your Memorial Day weekend enjoying a parade, beer gardens, Alaska Native art, carnival rides, live music and performances and, of course, crab. (kodiakchamber.org/crabfestival)

Great Alaska Music Festival

May 26-27, Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer

The first Great Alaska Music Festival will bring up Grammy-winning, eight-piece country stars Asleep at the Wheel and prolific rock band Chris Robinson Brotherhood, fronted by Chris Robinson (formerly of the Black Crowes). Enjoy their dedicated "Children's Forest," complete with a chalk-art zone, climbing walls and sumo suits. The festival also includes a kite-flying exhibition and performances by aerial silk experts Cirque Boreal and local fire dancers. Tickets range from $70-$140 for day passes and $135-$243 for two-day passes. (greatalaskamusicfestival.com)

Fairbanks Folk Fest

June 2, Fairbanks

Head to Ester Community Park to jam out to the musical stylings of local folk musicians. Last year's fest featured more than 15 performers as well as arts and food vendors. (fairbanksfolkfest.weebly.com)

Fiddlehead Fern Festival

June 2-3, Girdwood

This family-oriented event at Alyeska Resort and the Sitzmark will feature two days of live music, local arts and crafts booths, cooking demos, a 5K Fun Run, kid's activities and more. Menu items will feature fiddleheads, and Alyeska Resort's chefs will host hands-on demonstrations and share techniques for cooking with fiddleheads. (alyeskaresort.com)

3 Barons Renaissance Fair

June 2-3 and 9-10, Anchorage

The Tozier Sled Dog Track will be transformed once again into the mythical land of Hilshire for the 25th anniversary of Anchorage's ren fair. Embark on quests to become either a knight or citizen of Hilshire as you tear into a turkey leg, gulp down some mead and enjoy performances at every corner. The first weekend is pirate-themed, and the second is fantasy-themed. Costumes are not required. Tickets range from $5-$8. (3barons.org)

Society of Creative Anachronism Knights “Sir Cyrus Aurelius” David Wilson, left, and “Sir Soren j Alborgh” Leon Ayers II, right, battle in front of a crowd gathered at the 3 Barons Renaissance Fair at Tozier Track in Anchorage on Sunday, June 7, 2015. The 3 Barons Renaissance Fair continues next weekend on June 13-14. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News )

Sitka Summer Music Festival

June 5-July 1, Sitka

For over 40 years, the Sitka Summer Music Festival has been bringing world-class musicians to Alaska for almost a month full of strings, keys and solos. Besides the musical performances by acclaimed classical artists Doris Stevenson, Alfredo Oyaguez and more, make sure not to miss the crab feed on June 16 and the dinner cruise on June 24. Ticket prices range based on which events you're looking to attend. (alaskaclassics.org)

Chickenstock

June 15-17, Chicken

Take the trip to Chicken to jam out to "music on the top of the world." The lineup for the 12th annual Chickenstock features Alaska artists including Steve Brown and The Bailers, The Dry Cabin String Band, Cotton Ginny, Ryan Bowers and The Brain Trust. Adult tickets are $80, youth age 6-18 are $35 and children 5 and under are free. (chickenstockmusicfest.com)

Kenai River Festival

June 8-10, Soldotna Creek Park

This free, three-day festival celebrates the Kenai River with a plethora of family friendly activities, including live music, kids activities, food booths and an artisans market. The traditional Run for the River is on June 9. (kenaiwatershed.org)

Kachemak Bay Writers' Conference

June 8-12, Homer

This writers camp at Land's End Resort brings together authors, editors and agents from all over the country for a long weekend packed with workshops, activities and more. Topics covered will include fiction sources and how to nurture them, dynamic and strategic dialogue and the genesis and development of a personal essay. Relax and refocus your creativity with some yoga and the Kachemak Bay boat cruise ($60). This year, the keynote speaker is Anthony Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his 2014 novel "All the Light We Cannot See."

The conference fee, including access to dinners and luncheons, is $425 through June 7 and $450 after that. (writersconf.kpc.alaska.edu)

Last Frontier Theatre Conference

June 9-16, Valdez

Award-winning artists, playwrights, actors and directors from all over the world will come together for the 26th annual theater conference. Enjoy workshops, readings, performances and the play lab: a developmental table read with instant feedback from the audience and a curated three-person panel. There will also be a fringe festival, a 10-minute play slam and more at this week-long symposium.

Day passes are $20. Full conference registration is $50. (theatreconference.org)

Seldovia Music Festival

Soak up four days of music and art in beautiful Seldovia, with live performances throughout town, a plein air workshop, yoga, an art exhibit and a Sunday barbecue on the beach. Search "2018 Seldovia Summer Solstice Music Festival" on Facebook for details.

Alaska Hempfest

June 22-24, Wasilla

For three years, the Alaska Hempfest has been bringing Alaska together for a weekend festival concerning all things cannabis. The event is free to the public and includes a steampunk ball as well as the first Cannabis Quest, a competition between local growers and product makers. At Flag Day Fest Campground (700 South Full Curl Drive, Wasilla)

Tickets for the steampunk ball are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. (facebook.com/AlaskaHempfest)

Back to Bluegrass Festival

June 30-July 1, McGrath

This free, two-day event in Anderson Park supports radio station KSKO and promises some toe-tapping tunes, courtesy of Tanana Rafters, Saturday Cinders, Arctic Jungle and more. Local food and crafts will also be on sale. (facebook.com/backtobluegrass)

Lorenzo Marqueda hits a ramp on a skateboard street course during the Solstice Festival. Part of 4th Avenue was closed off to make way for food and entertainment at the Downtown Summer Solstice Festival on Saturday, June 21, 2014. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Downtown Summer Solstice

June 23, Anchorage

Come one, come all to Anchorage's Downtown Summer Solstice Festival. This free function includes live music, entertainment, food, family friendly activities and more. (anchoragedowntown.org)

Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival

June 16-17, Moose Pass

Looking for a more low-key solstice celebration? Check out Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival. Since its creation in 1978, the festival usually features a bake sale, beer garden, local vendor booths, kids games, an auction and a pie contest. (Search "Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival" to find details on Facebook)

PrideFest

June 9-16, Anchorage

This weeklong celebration of Alaska's LGBTQ+ community includes a Drag Queen Story Time (4 p.m. Saturday, June 9, Z.J. Loussac Public Library), a pageant crowning Mister and Miss Gay Alaska (9 p.m. Saturday, June 9, Mad Myrna's), a film festival (5:30 p.m. Monday, June 11, Bear Tooth Theatrepub), the fourth annual Rainbow Run (6 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, Ship Creek) and performances from Ginger Minj of "RuPaul's Drag Race" (7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 16, Williwaw) and human jukebox Deven Green (10 p.m. Saturday, June 16, Mad Myrna's). (alaskapride.org)

Photographer Jonathan Gurry makes a photo of brides-to-be KT Latico, left, and Marisa Latico during the Alaska PrideFest parade in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, Jun. 25, 2016. The couple will marry Saturday afternoon at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

Solstice Brewfest

June 22-24, Denali

Solstice Brewfest is back and better than ever. The weekend festival is bringing up Grammy-nominated EDM musical act Cut/Copy and offers beer seminars, pairing dinners, competitions and more. (facebook.com/SolsticeBrewfest)

Midnight Sun Festival

June 24, downtown Fairbanks

The Midnight Sun Festival is a free festival that dominates downtown Fairbanks. Expect fun for the whole family, as last year's fest included 30 live performances, 150 vendors, gold panning and more. (downtownfairbanks.com)

Scottish Highland Games

June 30, Alaska State Fair grounds in Palmer

Don your kilts and tartans: it's almost time for the 37th annual Scottish Highland Games, presented by the Alaska Scottish Club. There will be tug of war, field events, piping and drumming groups, scotch tastings and a vendor area featuring all things Scottish. Tickets ranging from $5-$15, with discounts and package deals offered. (alaskascottish.org)

Five bagpipe bands gathered together for a welcome processional at the Alaska Scottish Highland Games on Saturday, June 28, 2014 at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer. The bands and individual pipers later competed for top honors. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch)

Forest Fair

July 6-8, Girdwood

Girdwood's Forest Fair promises exotic food, live music and handcrafted items from Alaska artists and entertainers from all over the state. You don't want to miss the Forest Fair parade (10 a.m. Saturday, July 7). Attendees have several camping options nearby. (girdwoodforestfair.com)

Soundwaves Music Festival

July 7, Bingle Camp, Fairbanks

Grab your swimsuit and pool floats and celebrate music, natural beauty and local community in Fairbanks. Bands, including headliner Big Fat Buddha, will be performing on a dock as the audience enjoys the show from the water. There will be food vendors and limited edition memorabilia. (facebook.com/soundwavesAK)

Bear Paw Festival

July 11-15, Eagle River

This annual festival has a schedule filled to the brim with food, vendors and amusing events. Don't miss out on the Golden Wheel Carnival, the Bear Paw Grand Parade at 11 a.m. on July 14, and The Slippery Salmon Olympics, in which teams of two swerve around orange traffic cones hauling a whole salmon and other objects. (bearpawfestival.org)

Copper River Salmon Jam

July 13-14, Cordova

Celebrate with the community of Cordova for a good cause. Rock out to Anchorage rock band Big Fat Buddha, enjoy fresh salmon and participate in educational and sporty family friendly events. Ticket sales benefit the Cordova Arts Council and support year-round cultural activities in Cordova. (www.copperriverwild.org)

Spectrum Music and Arts Festival

July 13-15, Sandy River Amphitheater in Willow

Spectrum was founded to be an oasis for electronic music. This year's lineup is still to be announced, but expect a wide array of EDM artists and producers. (spectrumfestivalalaska.com)

Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival

July 15-29, Fairbanks

Come out for a "summer camp for adults" at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Create, connect and learn with acclaimed artists on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. This year's signature artist is local Sara Tabbert, whose wood carvings, paintings and prints can be seen all over the state.

Workshop options include dance training, Caribbean cuisine cookery, healing arts, glass fusion and more. (fsaf.org)

Southeast Alaska State Fair

July 26-29, Haines

The Southeast Alaska State Fair is celebrating 50 years of family fun with concerts, bake-offs, beach wrestling and more. Make sure you don't miss the grand parade or the most lovable dog contest. Four-day passes for $32 for adults and $24 for kids age 6-12. (seakfair.org)

Salmonfest

Aug. 3-5, Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds

Each year, over 6,000 people head to the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds for Salmonfest, a conservation-minded music festival promising "three days of fish, love and music." Previously known as Salmonstock, the event is featuring arts and food vendors and a musical lineup including Brandi Carlile, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Tim Easton, Apashe and Fruition. (salmonfestalaska.org)

Jewel and Steve Poltz perform at Salmonfest Sunday, August 6, 2017, in Ninilchik. Jewel and Poltz met each other in San Diego and she claims he took her under his wing. They co-wrote “You Were Meant For Me” and performed it together on stage. (Rugile Kaladyte / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alyeska Blueberry Festival

Aug. 18-19, Girdwood

There's nothing sweeter than the family friendly Alyeska Blueberry Festival.  Binge on blueberries and wear something you won't mind staining as you enjoy  live music, fun runs, a pie-eating contest, blueberry treats, a blueberry creations contest and berry-picking on the Alyeska Resort grounds. (alyeskaresort.com/calendarevents/blueberry-festival)

People walk through the fair grounds on the opening day of the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alaska State Fair

Aug. 23-Sept. 3, Palmer

Alaska's premier summer festival promises a week and a half of giant produce, indulgent fair food, carnival fare, a petting zoo, music and more. This year's concert series includes Stone Sour, the Goo Goo Dolls, country rocker Luke Combs, indie singer/songwriter Bishop Briggs with Lovelytheband, Midland, Three Dog Night and comedian Jim Gaffigan. Discounted tickets are available through Aug. 22. (alaskastatefair.org)

Seward Music and Arts Festival

Oct. 5-7, Dale R. Lindsey Alaska Railroad Intermodal Facility, Seward

Send off the festival season in Seward. Enjoy over 20 live music and dance performances, a diverse food court, a beer garden and a community art show. This year's theme is "Wilderness." (sewardfestival.com)

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