Skip to main Content
Music

Salmonfest time: Headliners Jason Mraz, Ani DiFranco and Wookiefoot kick off annual music festival in Ninilchik

  • Author: Lauren Ellenbecker
  • Updated: July 31
  • Published July 31

Headliners Jason Mraz, Ani DiFranco and Wookiefoot, as well as over 60 local and touring musicians, will perform across four stages this weekend in Ninilchik for Salmonfest.

“We have so much going on sometimes that there’s no way you’re going to be bored,” said Jim Stearns, Salmonfest producer. In addition to music, there will be interactive art installations and over 110 vendors ranging from food trucks to tie-dye stations.

“It’s just nonstop action.”

Headliners

Jason Mraz (10:15 p.m. Saturday, Ocean Stage)

Jason Mraz rose to prominence in the coffee-shop scene during the early 2000s with a mix of reggae, folk, funk and hip-hop. Breaking through with the 2008 hit “I’m Yours,” Mraz received a Grammy for best male pop vocal performance for “Make It Mine” in 2010 and best pop collaboration with Colbie Caillat on the song “Lucky” in 2010.

Mraz, whose foundation supports environmental groups, reached out to Salmonfest organizers about performing at the event, Stearns said. Mraz’s gesture was a first, he said.

“The bands that come through say there’s a buzz about this spot,” said David Stearns, who is Jim Stearns’ son and Salmonfest assistant director. “We have the trifecta: salmon preservation, Alaska and good music.”

Ani DiFranco (9:15 p.m. Friday, Ocean Stage)

Folk and alternative rock artist Ani DiFranco is a singer-songwriter, poet and activist who received a best recording package Grammy for her album “Evolve” in 2003. DiFranco has released 21 studio albums and recently published her memoir, “No Walls and the Recurring Dream.”

WookieFoot (11:15 p.m. Friday, Ocean Stage)

Describing themselves as a “circus, a philosophy, and a community of globe trekking bliss junkies,” Wookiefoot will bring their psychedelic reggae jam -- and light show -- to the Ocean Stage on Friday.

Next up!

California Honeydrops (8:40 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Ocean Stage)

Back for the third time, five-man rock and blues band the California Honeydrops has roots in the Sunny State and perform on stringed instruments, gutbucket bass, jug and washboard.

Keller Williams (7:35 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Ocean Stage)

Williams, who performed at Salmonfest in 2014, is a one-man band, bouncing between multiple instruments on stage and looping it all together into one cohesive sound.

Rainbow Girls (4:45 p.m. Friday, Ocean Stage, and 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Inlet Stage)

The Rainbow Girls are a folk trio from Santa Barbara, California, who played in concerts and festivals across America and internationally. They harmonize and bounce between playing a guitar, keyboard, harmonica and percussion.

Diggin Dirt (5:40 p.m. Saturday, Ocean Stage)

Funk group Diggin Dirt is visiting Salmonfest for the second year in a row. This seven-member group will deliver a high-energy performance with their groovy horn, percussion and bass melodies.

T Sisters (2:50 p.m. Saturday, Ocean Stage, 5:20 p.m. Sunday, Inlet Stage)

Indie-folk band T Sisters delve into subjects of societal roles, spirituality and activism in their music. Recently, the group traveled internationally to conduct workshops and share how music can generate social change.

Also playing:

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, The Burroughs, Kitchen Dwellers, Rumpke Mountain Boys, Dodge and Fuski, Joel Rafael, Steve Poltz, Deadphish Orchestra

Local groups

There are plenty of local performances at Salmonfest by familiar musicians like Hope Social Club, Blackwater Railroad Company, Ray Troll and The Ratfish Wranglers, Ava Earl and Alaska’s Blues Core.

A full schedule of performances can be found on the salmonfestalaska.org.

Salmon-related activities

There isn’t only live music during this three-day festival.

Salmonfest, previously called Salmonstock, was founded by a collection of groups in 2011 in part as a way to protest the proposed development of Pebble mine. That message of environmental conservation and activism continues in many of the festival’s non-music offerings.

Salmonfest’s hub for demonstrations and lectures is called the Salmon Causeway. Fifteen educational and outreach groups will have booths with activities and information relating to fish and water.

There are also free workshops in the Salmon Social Hall. Cooking demonstrations, Gyotaku fish printing and interactive discussions are some of the featured workshops. Festival goers can also learn about Dena’ina place names in a salmon landscape through interactive murals, said Salmon Causeway organizer Carly Weir.

“(The) element of learning about our salmon landscape … has always been a core of Salmonfest,” said Weir. “Hopefully (people) feel a love and celebration of wild salmon through the music and activities.”

Useful things to know

Salmonfest is Friday-Sunday in Ninilchik.

Single-day passes cost $72-$89, two-day passes are $115-$125 and three-day passes are $140-$152. More details regarding ticket prices can be found on Eventbrite.

Salmonfest is located at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, which is south of Kenai on the Sterling Highway. The venue is at Mile 136 on the east side of the highway.

People attending Salmonfest can park at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in marked lots for $5. There is also a free shuttle bus service that will stop by campgrounds to pick up those wearing a Salmonfest wristband.

There are camping spots available near the fairgrounds, some of which require a reservation. Camping options include ARCHES Alaska Camping Area, Deep Creek View Fairground, Alaskan Angler RV Resort, Ninilchik River Campground, Ninilchik View Campground, Deep Creek locations and more. Forecast for the weekend in Ninilchik is promising, but be prepared for rain or shine.

For more information about Salmonfest, go to salmonfestalaska.org.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.