The Alaska State Fair

What made this fair different than what I’d expect from other states? I’ll refrain from snarky comments about such topics as what Alaskans wear to the fair (a lot of goth, and, I mean a lot), who they go hear as the headliner band (Foghat), and I’ll try to stick with the positives. Even though we were there with seriously bad weather and amazingly expensive food and beer (and goth kids and Foghat), we were glad we went.

Fair Food

I can’t even think about fair food without thinking fondly of Shana and Marcus and their Foodieland adventure. In fact, I texted them throughout our two days at the fair, with choices of all the food we considered eating and then photos and reviews of what we chose. If we couldn’t have friends there with us in real life (we missed Doug and Melanie tremendously), we could have them on our phones.

As I joked to Shana and Marcus, when every food item costs as much as a sweatshirt, you feel pressure to pick only the most fair-like, or maybe only what is special to Alaska. Both if possible.

Among the kazillion things we ate was this thing above, which was most-anticipated and maybe a bit of a bummer. It’s a jalapeño (yes, I spelled that wrong above) stuffed with several cheeses, then rolled in a salmon filet (that’s what makes it Alaska, to me), then rolled in bacon and grilled. It was good, just not freaking amazing like I’d hoped. It was messy and a bit gloppy, and we were already messy and gloppy ourselves. I think a serious grilled outside crunch was missing.

This cream puff was the winner in my book (although Tracy points out rightly that it wasn’t carefully made or special to Alaska—and it was messy and gloppy). The puff pastries on top and bottom were even a little stale, but man there was so much cream filling between them that who the heck cared. I got half covered in salted caramel and half in cherry jam. Can you see the size of this thing compared to my thumb on the left? It’s called a Denali Cream Puff, and it’s well named.

We also had seafood chowder in a bread bowl, a turkey leg, chorizo, popcorn and more than a few local beers we hadn’t had before. The food wasn’t as fried as we expected with a state fair, and wasn’t as local as we’d expected. Too many expectations were the culprit!


The giant veggies is what we were most excited about, but we realized they’re exhibited only at the very end, after the final weigh-in. Duh.

Still, the fair is so famous for these that they created an exhibit with really big specimens, just not the biggest. We had fun trying to figure out what some things were. Rutabaga? Celery? It’s surprisingly hard to do.

I appreciated the beautiful and weird knitting (although there was no musk ox quivet!).

We spent a lot of time looking at exhibits because they were indoors, out of the rain and wind and cold. I know nothing about these plants, but they were suddenly very interesting.


We also chuckled over how many animals were on display that aren’t found in Alaska.

I guess it’s fair to assume Alaskans want to see weird animals they never see. The fair is for them, not us, after all.

The chickens are my favorites, and surely these are home-grown. I could look at their beautiful feathers all day.

They’re not particularly Alaskan, though! There was one exhibit of sled dogs and one stuffed moose you could climb on and get your picture taken in a huge saddle. I’m guessing that was for the sake of the tourists. Hard to tell, frankly.


The lumberjack show paled compared to the international championship in Wisconsin, so says Tracy.

Look at that mountainous backdrop, though. I’d never seen a lumberjack show, so I was impressed. Skill and jokes, can’t beat that.

The tractor pull was not as grand as the one I used to go to as a kid in Virginia, nor did it have any John Deeres. Alaska is not about tractors. In fact, we joked when we saw people eating corn dogs that Alaska is not about corn or pigs, either. But a fair is a fair, no matter where.


This is how we spent most of our time, drinking expensive beers and deciding if we were enjoying various small bands playing throughout the fairgrounds.

That worked.

What was Alaskan about this fair?

Lots of seafood, yes. We had chowder, fritters, fried fish, and the fresh fish on my jalapeño/burrito/sushi thing above.

An indigenous section of exhibits, crafts, and a dedicated stage. People danced up there, which I felt was a little weird. Seems like that kind of dancing is a communal, sacred event, not for doing on a stage with a bunch of people gawking. But who am I to say? I did listen to a comic tell jokes about living on a reservation without water, which was a focus of indigenous playacting near Tombstone, too. I have a choice to live without much water, but I still identified in a way, and the comic was funny!

In front of the stage were booths for crafts and jewelry, as well as an area for teaching craftsmanship such as salmon skinning. I finally found my souvenir from this summer in a booth like this, dedicated to naturally shorn antlers.

Mine is a ring made from musk ox horn. Very Alaska! Okay, technically, musk ox are found naturally in the Arctic, but I saw them at the Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks, so for me they are Alaskan. If boundaries here are blurred, then I’m joining in.

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