Unleashing Our Inner Fair

It’s really hard to believe that it’s winding down to my last two weeks here in Haines! The Southeast Alaska State Fair (theme: Unleash Your Inner Fair, hence this post’s title) was this weekend, and it’s been a wonderful, beautiful, and crazy ending to these three months. My friends from the Midwest have always talked incessantly about the Minnesota State Fair, and I never quite understood why it was such a big deal to them. Now I get it. Obviously the one here is quite a bit smaller, but it’s still a trip. The amount of human ingenuity and creativity that goes on display at a state fair is kind of mind-blowing. Haines (and all of Southeast Alaska, apparently) is full of artists, and they came out in droves for this event.

Quilt close-up

Quilt detail

One of the most impressive parts of the fair was the quilting competition. I’ve never thought much about quilts, honestly. I know my mom likes them, and they’re pretty, but holy cow. Walking through the display of the winners–and all the contestants, really–changed my perspective. A ridiculous amount of detail goes into those things, and I’ve never appreciated how much creativity is required to make a good quilt. IMG_0127 IMG_0134

The sewing in general was all amazing. My favorite piece was this needlework moose…the pattern was created by the artist.

Needlework mooseMiniature flower arrangementMy grandmother used to be a professional floral arranger, so some of the pieces made me think of her (Hi, Grandma!). I snapped a photo of this tiny one with a pansy for her. My hands will never have that much patience.

The main stage had all sorts of crazy acts, from wearable art (pictured below) to amazing bands. Elephant Revival and The Whiskeydicks (great name) were two of the headliners–the dancing was ridiculously fun, and it went on until 11 then continued at the bars. In case I haven’t already made this clear, the folks up here know how to party.

More wearable art

Something about the artist surrounding herself with healing powers. I didn’t quite get it, but it was beautiful.

A contestant in the wearable art competition, who was also the lead in the puppet show.

A contestant in the wearable art competition, who was also the lead in the puppet show.

Wearable art--hand-dyed coffee filters

Her dress was made from hand-dyed coffee filters.


The lead singer of the Whiskeydicks


A performer with the Skagway Aerial Company

The winner of the fiddle competition (the fiddle play for the Foghorn String Band) and his accompanist.

The winner of the fiddle competition playing on the Main Stage

I decided to enter the fiddling competition on one of the side stages. I wasn’t expecting to win, but I have awful stage fright and figured this would be a good way to work on it. The winner turned out to be the fiddle player from the Foghorn String Band, and the second place winner was our Swedish/Norwegian friend who’s going to school for music up there. It was delightful hearing them play, and a pleasure to have my ass kicked by both of them! They are also both nice people, and very humble about their abilities.


Me on fiddle and my friend Jedediah on drum

It’s funny–I’ve played classical music almost since I started playing the violin, and I switched to primarily viola when I was 15. But I’ve always loved fiddle music, and I’m not sure why I haven’t pursued it as a hobby until recently. Haines is so welcoming of new musicians, though, regardless of their ability, that I’ve had endless opportunities to play with other people and learn from them. It’s been a nice change from playing quietly in my room. Not that I haven’t had opportunities at home–I’ve just been shy about trying to find people to play with.

Another major highlight of the fair was the puppet show put on by Geppetto’s Junkyard, the local puppeteering troupe. They make all of their puppets, write their own plays and music, and do it all on a volunteer basis. My photos mostly came out dark and blurry, but this one almost does it justice…

A shot from the puppet show. The local troupe is called Gepetto's Junkyard.IMG_0109Technically, Emily and I were there to run the High Striker (the giant thing that you hit with a mallet to try and ring the bell), but our boss was nice and gave us a lot of time to run around the fair. Of course, in my down time at the High Striker, I kept trying to ring the bell myself. I didn’t get anywhere near it, but after watching about 200 people do it at Beer Fest in May, my form has improved quite a bit…

We also got to ride the Ferris Wheel. Normally I hate them because I’m terrified of heights, but this one was small enough to handle. After an initial go-around of “Wow, this is higher than I thought” and “Gee, don’t these pieces of metal look rusty…” we got used to it and enjoyed the ride. Look, we’re waving!


Oh, and did I mention that the weather has been AMAZING? After the rainiest July on records, the clouds broke and we’ve had 3 days of straight, pure sunlight. In fact, it was so clear on Friday night that we saw the Northern Lights! We walked out from the fair to see bands of green dancing on the horizon, and they continued on and off until 2 AM. Because it’s still summer, they were on the faint side, but it’s rare to see them at all this time of year, and I felt very lucky.


2 thoughts on “Unleashing Our Inner Fair

  1. MG

    YES!!! I actually was following the Iowa State Fair coverage in the Des Moines Register this last two weeks. There’s nothing like a good state fair. I can also relate to some of your observations about small-town life. I am from a town of 500, and things can become pretty myopic. And it’s amazing how fast news travels.


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