This article was originally written for the Anchorage Daily News.
Every August, hundreds of thousands of Alaskans make the trek to the state fair in Palmer to chow down, conquer rides and enjoy the last days of summer. Here’s what some of them had to say Sunday during the first weekend of the fair.
Erica and Amy Klementson
The anticipation while you’re waiting in line for the fair’s slingshot ride can be almost as nerve-wracking as being catapulted into the air. While the ride shook and rattled and passengers screamed their lungs out, Amy and Erica Klementson waited. Amy kept her composure. Meanwhile, it seemed, Erica’s nerves were building. Their turn finally came; the ride operator pushed the button and shot the women 50 feet in the air, and their screams echoed across the rowdy fairground.
While fairgoers filtered in and out of the Green Gate entrance, Tom Robertson was busy carving. His booth, Alaska Chainsaw Carvings — where he crafts furniture and decor — is right next to the slingshot.
Working on a bear sculpture, Robertson said he’s ridden the slingshot more times than he can count as a plus-one for fairgoers who couldn’t find a buddy daring enough to go with them.
From the slingshot to the King BMX Stunt Show, the Green Gate entrance never fails to intrigue daredevils and spectators alike. Russell Summerville flew through the air at the King BMX Stunt Show Sunday. King BMX riders have competed in the X Games and Gravity Games; in 2012, they competed on “America’s Got Talent’s” seventh season.
Maria and Gabby Jones
Maria Jones and her daughter Gabby, 5, took a break amid the rush of the Sunday fair crowd to enjoy a sundae funnel cake outside of the Eworx Don Sheldon Events Center. They weren’t the only spectators that had their faces painted — butterflies, kittens and skeletons of every age strolled by.
Amid the hustle and bustle of farm animals and fairgoers, time slows down at the Cook Inlet Bonsai Study Group display, where Tim Pack, a club member, trimmed a Nanking flowering cherry tree Sunday. Members have been displaying their trees for more than 20 years at the Alaska State Fair.
The bonsai room is tucked away near the beekeeping area in the Craig Taylor Equipment Farm Exhibits. When fair time is over, the organization goes on digs to find material, either in the wilderness or on members’ properties around the state.
In the middle of a rawhide blanket surrounded by dozens of participants, Casey Mellott was launched into the air at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics Blanket Toss. The blanket toss took place at The Gathering Place — an area dedicated to celebrating Alaska Native tradition that was first added to the fairgrounds in 2014, then expanded. Unalakleet’s “Eskimo Ninja” Nick Hanson — who competed on the TV show “American Ninja Warrior” in 2017 — led the event, as well as a “ninja warrior pro camp” where children and adults could attempt obstacles from the NBC hit.
Alyssa London was the first Tlingit Miss Alaska at the Miss USA Pageant in 2017. She made headlines for her evening gown — a Tlingit robe with a design of a killer whale that represented London’s heritage. When taken off her shoulders, the robe transformed into an evening gown adorned with Swarovski crystals. London didn’t win the pageant, though she did make it into the top 10. London spoke at the Dena’ People’s Stage Sunday about her experiences in a national competition; although daunting, it made her proud to represent her heritage. London didn’t wear the dress at the fair; she wore a robe from artist Doe Stahr of Deer Creek Studio.
Across the Yellow Trail from The Gathering Place is the BP Grandstand, where the rafters were full of lively and rambunctious rodeo-goers, eager to cheer on their favorite cowboys and cowgirls at the Alaska Tough Enough to Wear Pink Ram Rodeo. Between barrel racing, team roping and bull riding, Trent McFarland kept attendees entertained by lassoing, dancing and stealing their phones and taking selfies. On Sept. 13 and 14 at the Sullivan Arena, Rodeo Alaska will be having a tribute event for first responders, where all proceeds will be donated to fire victims in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Grace Bacher, 7, tries not to have too much fun while on the carousel at the Alaska State Fair Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 (Photo by Samantha Davenport).
The Alaska State Fair continues through Sept. 2 in Palmer. For a complete daily schedule, see alaskastatefair.org.