Salmonfest returns to Ninilchik Aug. 4-6

Salmonfest returns for the 12th year at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds with performers on four stages. Headliners this year include Old Crow Medicine Show, Sierra Ferrell, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Leftover Salmon, Sam Nelson of X Ambassadors, The Burroughs, Ahee, Jackie Venson, Tim Easton Allstar Band and more.

According to the Salmonfest website, more than 8,000 people annually “turn the Kenai Peninsula village of Ninilchik into a small city as families and friends fill the region with fish, love, and music.”

The three-day weekend includes more than 60 bands performing across four stages, Alaska’s top food, art and brews, as well as a science symposium, and daily children’s program, according to the festival website.

Festival Director Jim Stearns has been involved with Salmonfest since it first started under the name Salmonstock, organized for financial support in opposition of Pebble Mine. Stearns was hired to start Salmonstock by the Renewable Resources Foundation.

Original funding was provided by Bob Gillam, a now-deceased Alaska resident who had a large estate in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. Stewardship organization of the festival is now conducted by ARCHES Alaska (arts, recreation, conservation, humanities, education, science). The organization donates money raised from Salmonfest primarily to conservation causes but also to other humanitarian groups across the state of Alaska such as the Ninilchik Senior Citizens Fund, KBBI, KDLG, Homer Youth Orchestra, Alaska Literacy Program, United Tribes of Bristol Bayfoodbanks, theaters, little league. Other recipient organizations can be found on the Salmonfest website.

“In addition to Salmonfest, ARCHES started turning our heads towards some other things. We had a general adventure summer camp this year to get a little traction. We’re looking at opening up a conference center at the ARCHES site in Ninilchik behind the fairgrounds,” Stearns said.

As for Salmonfest logistics, camping is available at J&J Smart Charters/Deep Creek View Campground, Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds, Rosco’s Pizza, Alaskan Angler RV Resort, Ninilchik River Campground, Ninilchik View Campground, Deep Creek North Scenic Overlook, Deep Creek Beach State Recreation Area, All Seasons Campground (formerly Country Boy Campground), Happy Valley RV Campground. The Salmonfest shuttle is a free service throughout the festival available to campers with a wristband. According to the Salmonstock website, the ARCHES Campground is already sold out.

“A big part of Salmonfest is the ‘causeway’ stage. It’s our smallest stage, where we have solo artists and environmental speakers. An event this year will also offer some Fisher Poet readings coordinated by Steve Schoonmaker. We like to see people engage in that stage and meet up with our nonprofits,” Stearns said.

Tickets to the event are available via the Salmonfest website at Prices vary by age and in various packaging discounts depending on how many days of attendance people choose. Children under the age of 6 are free. “We like to try to encourage a family-friendly event. We want kids to start getting involved in both the music and activism component,” Stearns said.

There are 350 staff and volunteers involved in the weekend event.

“Staff are from all over the state. We fly in about 30 or 40 of them,” Stearns said.