The Alaska State Fair is held near Palmer, just about 4 miles from my B&B. It’s the busiest time of year in this area for us because on top of all our Lower 48 and International visitors, many Alaskans come to the Fair, too. The phone rings all day with people pleading to just let them have a sleeping bag on the living room floor for a place to stay.
I always have good intentions of buying a 3-day pass for a discount, but the truth of it is that it’s a struggle to get away even once a year to attend the Fair, with all the sheets and towels to wash and endless chores of the B&B. Layer onto that, that at this point, we B&B hosts have been going constantly for over 100 days in our season…Usually we’re thinking, “you just gotta make it through the Fair…” because then typically after Labor Day, our season ends. Visitors head home for the start of school; Denali’s season of bus tours comes to a close and Alaska starts to “shut down” to some degree. That’s changing year by year as more visitors are around later and tourism businesses stay open later, but usually by Fair time, we are good and tired.
This year, I did go to the Fair on the second Saturday. Our B&B association took part in Experience Alaska Day, which was an opportunity for tourism businesses from around the state to promote what we offer here and around Alaska to the Fair visitors. We had a booth where we gave out our brochures, and we also had a quilt raffle going on. One of our members made a quilt for us with an Alaskan theme to raffle as a fundraiser. After I worked at the booth, I met my friend Cassadra and her son for a walk through the exhibits and dinner.
It was fun to hang out with them and to eat “Fair food” which is different here from state Fairs I’m used to in the midwest. In the midwest, of course the Fair is held during hot weather and what you crave are cold foods like lemonade and ice cream. Here, it is almost always moving into “fall’ weather with rain and cooler temperatures by the time the Fair starts. We go for hot foods which are often seafood based, like delicious salmon chowder, halibut skewers, crab bisque, and bacon-wrapped scallops. There are also the “regulars” like cotton candy and funnel cakes.
The photos show what has to be the most beautiful, natural parking lot in the world, me at our booth, and Cassandra and her son on a kids’ ride, with the mountains in the background. It’s hard to tell the scale of the delphinium flowers in the photo, but they are HUGE. The flower stalks rise nearly four feet out of the vase and are as big around as a basketball at the lower end.