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From Renaissance Fair to Salmonfest, here's your Alaska festival guide for summer 2016

  • Author: Alaska Dispatch News
  • Updated: June 27, 2016
  • Published May 26, 2016

Recent warm weather has propelled Alaskans outdoors to soak up the prime conditions with hikes, bikes and picnics. It also has them thinking long and hard about summertime and its wealth of entertainment choices.

Alaska's summer festival scene has continued to expand to all corners of the state, with options for fans of all varieties of music, art, craft and food. Here's Alaska Dispatch News' look at some of the state's major festivals.

Trapper Creek Bluegrass

May 27-29, Trapper Creek

This is a big, dusty party in the woods of Boot's Bison Ranch. Three days of music will include, as of last update, The Jephries, Dutchess, Saucy Yoda, Kat Moore, Avery Wolves, The Dirty Hands and, of course, God Damned Ranch Hand Band and Justin Boot closing things out Sunday. (No one under 21 allowed without a legal guardian.) No glass, no glow sticks. Tickets $100. There will be another Trapper Creek festival in August, check Facebook for details:

Fire breather Keighvin Chapman performs at the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival on Friday, May 22, 2015. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

3 Barons Renaissance Fair

June 4-5 and 11-12, Anchorage

There's a complicated backstory involving a relic, a competition for tokens and someone called Hillthelstan the Bold, but you don't need to know anything about all that in order to enjoy "Ren Fair," as this yearly event is widely known. Check out the live chess match, throw tomatoes at the melodrama performers, laugh at the approximations of old English accents, and snack on an enormous turkey leg while you're at it. (Costumes are not required — though if you're so inclined … ) 12-8 p.m. the first two weekends in June at the Tozier Sled Dog Track. Tickets $5-8. (

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. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News )


June 10-11, Chicken

Chickenstock will be providing "music on the top of the world" for the 10th year in 2016. The festival in the historic goldpanning town of Chicken features musical acts from throughout the state. From Anchorage, Hot Dish and Hannah Yoter will be performing as well as Fairbanks' Barcelona Boys Choir and "Father of Alaska bluegrass" Carl Hoffman. Early-bird tickets are available to June 1, when the price will rise to the standard rate of $60. (

Kenai River Festival

June 10-12, Soldotna Creek Park

The Kenai Watershed Forum presents a free, three-day festival, which celebrates the health of the Kenai River. Billed as family-friendly, the festival includes "rock and roll, country, blues, bluegrass and more," according to its website. The Run for the River on June 11 is part of the festival's tradition. Both 10-mile and 5K runs are offered with early registration running up through June 3.(

River Grass

June 10-12, Willow

We recently wrote of Scot Dunnachie's effort to turn his property on Sandy River near Willow into a large-scale event venue and music amphitheater. River Grass will be the first music festival at the place, with Brown Chicken Brown Cow String Band, Dirty Hands, Tyson James & The Strangs announced for the lineup. Tickets $50. (

Kachemak Bay Writer's Conference

June 10-14, Homer

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will be the keynote for the annual book camp for creative writers at Land's End Resort on the Homer Spit. In addition, some 16 nationally recognized authors, editors and agents will conduct workshops, craft talks and panel discussions.

Registration includes five meals, receptions each evening and the chance to attend a special post-conference workshop at Tutka Bay Lodge, June 14-16. Nonregistrants can attend free evening readings by visiting writers on June 11-13. (

Last Frontier Theatre Conference

June 12-18, Valdez

If you missed the past theater season in Anchorage, you can catch several of the highlights during evening performances at the Valdez Conference Center during this annual celebration of theatrical creativity. Stagings will be reprised of TossPot's production of "Good Men Wanted," UAA's "Stalking the Bogeyman" and Perseverance Theatre's delicious "Annapurna." Other big-stage events include Amy Tofte's "Flesh Eating Tiger" from Australia and Valerie Hager's award-winning one-woman show "Naked in Alaska."

The days are filled with readings of (mostly) short plays by (mostly) Alaskans, workshops and talks by guests. There's also a Fringe Festival and a Ten Minute Play Slam. (

Euphoria Denali

June 17-18, Healy

The music lineup for this party at 49th State Brewing Co. will include Muzzy Bearr, Blunt Force, Denali Cooks, Willgood and Jasper Chili. Tickets $20 a day or $35 for a two-day pass. See for details.

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 / Anchorage Daily News archive)

Downtown Summer Solstice

June 18, Anchorage

Communities big and small hold celebrations of solstice each summer. Anchorage's Downtown Summer Solstice Festival is among the largest. Events on this year's docket include the Hero Games, featuring Alaska first responders, and the Midnight Sun Skate Jam, with pro skateboarders showing off their skills. The Rage City Roller Girls will skate on Fourth Avenue from 2-3 p.m. and the festival will also feature crafts, vendors, a kids play zone and the Taste of Anchorage Food Zone. (

Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival

June 18-19, Moose Pass

Those who decide the crowds of downtown Anchorage aren't for them on solstice have a viable alternative just a couple hours away. The festival has traditionally included a bake sale, raffle, auction and a pie contest, as well as games for kids. Musical options this year include They Pretty Damn Close Band, The Shoot Dangs and Full Tilt on June 18. (Look on Facebook for details)


June 18-25, Anchorage

Alaska PrideFest runs from June 18-25 with the slogan "Many Voices, One Message." A celebration of the state's LGBT community, PrideFest features more than 10 events of the course of the weeklong festival. Some of the longstanding favorites include the Rainbow Run on June 21 and the Equality Parade on June 25. Drag Queen Bingo, in its 15th year, will be hosted at Williwaw on June 23. The Pride FilmFest, at Bear Tooth TheatrePub, presents a pair of LGBT films on June 20 — "Jenny's Wedding" and "The Birdcage." (

Lakota Tow, in red hoodie, gets a rainbow lei from his mom Susan Tow before the Pride Equality March on Saturday, June 14, 2014. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch)

Midnight Sun Festival

June 19, downtown Fairbanks

Starting at noon and running all the way until 12 a.m., the Midnight Sun Festival will take over downtown Fairbanks. The entire downtown community is involved, with the streets packed with vendors, food options and three stages of musicians and performers. This year's festival with be the 35th, and organizers draw on the talent of local artists and designers in producing this year's logo.

Road To Warped Tour

June 22, Sullivan Arena

For a third straight year, Road To Warped Tour will land in Anchorage, unofficially kicking off the summer traveling festival of alternative music. This year's acts include Sum 41, Sleeping With Sirens, Reel Big Fish and Crown The Empire. For the second time, Warped will be held in the Sullivan Arena parking lot, with doors set to open at 2 p.m. Adult tickets are $49.

Scottish Highland Games

June 25-26, Alaska State Fair grounds in Palmer

This summer, the Alaska Scottish Club is celebrating its 35th annual Scottish Highland Games. There will be scotch tasting, piping and drumming groups, as well as traditional athletic competitions like the caber toss. Single-day tickets range from $12-$20 with discounted two-day passes available.

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 1-3, Girdwood

The Girdwood Forest Fair is an eclectic family fair with food, artisan crafts and gifts and music. The Forest Fair Parade, scheduled for July 2 at 10 a.m., has long been a staple, and camping is available at a number of locations in Girdwood. The fair is free but raises funds with one of the summer's most endearing souvenirs — the famous T-shirt with the motto "The Cover Charge that Covers Your Back," designed by the winner of an annual contest. (

Bear Paw Festival

July 6-10, Eagle River

The event starts July 6, but festivities kick off in full on July 8, with a chainsaw carving demo, a carnival and a classic car show. On the other days, there will be horse-drawn carriage rides, a 5K run and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. The final day also includes a motorcycle show and an ice cream eating contest. (

The Dank Dipper

July 8-10, Willow

Billed as a "cannabis awareness event" with an Alaska focus, this event will feature guest speakers, live music and a Cannabis Cup and other contests. Check for updates and details. At the Sandy River Amphitheater near Willow.

Spectrum Music and Arts

July 15-17, Sandy River Amphitheater in Willow

Spectrum's website description nearly says it all: "Spectrum is a transformative environment shaped by an ethos of creation, dedicated to the pursuit of music, art, and the power of the human spirit." The festival was established as a home for electronic music. Sayer, Mr. Projectile, Treyzilla and Minnesota have all been announced as musical options via the festival's Facebook page. (

Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival

July 17-31, Fairbanks

This is a party for enthusiasts of arts across the spectrum on the campus of University of Alaska Fairbanks. The music classes alone range from classical and jazz to roots, Celtic and steel pan playing. The art curriculum includes watercolor and bead-making. There are dance, theater and literature components, plus healing and culinary arts.

In addition to workshops on everything from opera to milonga, there are some things you'll only find here, like a program on wilderness composition that will drop off aspiring composers in Denali National Park and Preserve and have their work played for them when they get back. (

Liz Snyder and her 3-year-old son Finn play with a hula hoop at Salmonstock on August 2, 2014. The music festival, which is now called Salmonfest, is family-friendly. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)


Aug. 5-7, Ninilchik

Last year, Salmonfest got a new name. This year, there aren't any significant changes in direction, but more of what the festival has aspired to since its inception: A place for Alaskans to hear big-name acts from the Outside alongside dozens of Alaska artists. Musical headliners include the Indigo Girls and Trampled By Turtles, who played the fest in 2013. A sneaky option for the uninitiated is the Wood Brothers, one of the most hailed Americana acts of the last decade. (

Alyeska Blueberry Festival

Aug. 20-21, Girdwood

Feeling blue? The Alyeska Blueberry Festival is just the place for you. There are Alaska-grown blueberries in all forms, from picking to pies and cooking demos. The festival also includes chairlift rides at the Alyeska tram, fun runs and music. This year's headliner is Great American Taxi, with plenty of Alaska artists filling out the bill. (

Alaska State Fair

Aug. 25-Sept. 5, Palmer

The final major event of the summer, the state fair features vendors, exhibits and cabbage so enormous you'd think they were on steroids. There are baked goods, crafts, livestock, photography and woodworking, all crafted, grown and raised by Alaskans. The concert series perennially features big names and fan favorites. This year's lineup includes The Band Perry, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, G-Eazy and Volbeat. (

Seward Music and Arts Festival

Sept. 23-25, Seward

The concert lineup for this year's Seward festival hasn't yet been announced, but this arts and music fair off Resurrection Bay is classic, small-town Alaska fun and a great way to end the festival season. Check for updates.

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