Turkey legs, giant cabbages, lumberjacks, and carnival rides. The Alaska State Fair is back, nestled in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and set against the backdrop of the Chugach Mountains. This year’s fair takes place August 22 through September 1.
The fairgrounds are located an hour’s drive north of Anchorage at mile 40 on the Glenn Highway, which every year is flooded with traffic coming from Alaska’s largest city. But Alaskans from on and off the road system shuffle through the summer festival’s hundreds of vendors.
There is a lot to do, but many attendees make the trip strictly for the food. Favorites are returning, like Alaskan Elephant Ears, deep-fried batter smothered in powdered and cinnamon sugar, honey, berries or cream cheese; Cajun Cookin’s jammin’ jambalaya, fried jumbo and deep-fried pickles; or Phyllis’s Café bread bowls. Just remember the antacids.
When you finish stuffing yourself, there are a long list of events to attend.
One of the fair’s biggest draws is the music acts, and this year’s lineup ain’t too shabby. On the fair’s first night, the British-American rock band Foreigner graced the stage. The band has sold 80 million albums worldwide thanks to hits like “Jukebox Hero” and “Cold as Ice.” If country gets your hips movin’, check out Brantley Gilbert on Saturday, August 24. The musician is likely best known for his hit “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do.” The surprise act this year is Kendrick Lamar, an up and coming rapper from Compton, Calif. Lamar’s first commercial release, “good kid, m.A.A.d city” was a 2013 Billboard Music Awards top rap album nominee. He’ll be spittin’ hot fire Thursday, August 29.
Bill “Kids Say the Darndest Things” Cosby will be making folks chuckle at the fair come Sunday. The tickets are costly, however, at $40 for general admission.
Motor sports, a fair staple, begin Friday. The Amateur and Youth Supercross at 6 p.m. is free for the kiddos, $10 for the rest of us. And on Saturday, the 6th Annual Alaska Supercross kicks off, featuring a “best whip” contest and freestyle show with X-Games medalist Corey Davis. That show is $20 for adults and $10 for youth.
If dirt and dare devils don’t float your boat, perhaps a glimpse of ancient Egypt will satiate your historical hunger. Free with fair admission, King Tut: Wonderful Things From the Pharaoh’s Tomb exhibit features a collection of reproduced artifacts from King Tutankhaten’s resting place. The more than 130 replicas of Tut’s personal possessions, along with associated artifacts from the time period of his reign, shed light on the life and times of Egypt’s most famous pharaoh.
Ancient history is for bookworms and biographers, you say? Well, a lesson in horticulture is close by. Alaska farmers go head-to-head during two of the fair’s most popular events. Tuesday, August 27, is the Midnight Sun Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Two years ago, the largest orange-yellow fruit weighed in at a whopping 1,287 pounds. The giant cabbage weigh-off takes place on Friday, August 30. Last year, farmer Scott Robb set a new Guinness World Record with his 138.25 pound cabbage.
General admission to the fair is $12 on weekdays, $14 on weekends for adults, and $7 and $8 for kids, respectively.
Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com