Music lovers listen to a performance on the River Stage at Salmonfest on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Music lovers listen to a performance on the River Stage at Salmonfest on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Salmonfest music festival canceled for 2020

For the first time in its relatively short history, Salmonfest will not proceed with three days of fish, love and music this year.

Organizers announced the cancellation of the 2020 festival, scheduled for the first weekend in August, on the Salmonfest Facebook page on Sunday. Next year’s festival, which Salmonfest Director Jim Stearns said he’s confident will go ahead as planned, will mark the event’s 10th anniversary.

The annual music festival and environmental advocacy event is the latest Alaska casualty of the global coronavirus pandemic. Even with restrictions lifted on businesses and some other sectors of the economy, large events still represent a big question mark. Asked last week whether large gatherings will be allowed to be held going forward, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said his administration is still discussing that.

“We’re going to have to figure out a way to make that work,” Dunleavy said on May 19. “… We’re having those discussions. We’re working with the folks who are putting those large gatherings on.”

Salmonfest’s cancellation follows the same announcement recently by the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Stearns said Salmonfest organizers came to the decision after getting feedback from locals who said they would not be comfortable attending this year.

“There was just too much anxiety around the whole thing,” he said.

The logistics of holding the annual festival, which floods the small fishing community of Ninilchik with music lovers from all over the state, would have been challenging, Stearns said. The festival organizers had been considering an attendance limit for the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik where the festival is held, as well as other controls, but Stearns said it would have been complicated, and still risky.

“I think that putting on a large festival is probably one of the most challenging things you could do in that context,” he said.

Trying to hold the festival at the same level as years past would have been politically risky and risky in terms of health safety, Stearns said.

“I have a mixed feeling about it,” he said of canceling the festival “We’ve got to balance opening up our state with being careful.”

Anyone who already bought tickets to Salmonfest will be given a refund, or offered the option of carrying over their ticket to the 2021 event, Stearns said. Organizers are also sending out a survey to their email list asking for feedback on whether people would feel comfortable attending a smaller event, and when they might feel comfortable doing so.

Potential plans for a very scaled down event later this fall are still in the preliminary stages. It would be nothing like Salmonfest and would not be advertised under that name, Stearns said.

Those behind the festival “have no intention of going anywhere, of course,” Stearns said. Work will continue through this summer on an additional 40 acres of campground space, he said, as much as resources allow.

While Stearns has not gotten confirmation from every band slated to perform at this year’s festival, he said it looks like most of the musical talent will return for the same lineup in 2021. The festival will work to find replacements for any bands that do not return, Stearns said.

Stearns said the organizers behind Salmonfest had been prepared to meet some kind of disaster at some point, but they had figured on it being an earthquake, a volcano eruption, a fire or some other typical Alaska emergency.

“Nobody could have ever anticipated this,” he said of the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, Stearns said he thinks the festival is in a good position to help rebuild part of the music industry when large gatherings are safe again.

“We really appreciate everybody’s support and understanding about this whole thing,” he said.

For more information, visit salmonfest.org or the festival’s Facebook page.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.

Participants in an aerial art installation march through the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds, with a king salmon leading the way, at Salmonfest on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

Participants in an aerial art installation march through the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds, with a king salmon leading the way, at Salmonfest on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018 in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)

More in News

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink address members of the media during a remote press conference on Monday, March 1 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
State to receive 8,900 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccine rollout

Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, listens as Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, delivers an apology on Friday, March 5, 2021, for earlier remarks. Vance called for a Sense of the House vote to rebuke Fields for his comments. (Peter Segall/The Juneau Empire via AP, Pool)
Alaska House condemns comments about lawmaker’s appearance

Sense of the House sponsored by Rep. Sarah Vance

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: IFQ permits go by mail only on request

Pandemic work conditions prevented mass mailings of IFQ permits

Homer News file photo
Homer High School.
School announcements

School district risk level update and upcoming events

This image compilation shows the latest winners of the Mariners on the Move award from Homer High School. (Image courtesy Paul Story)
Mariners on the Move

In the latest installment of awarding Homer High School students with a… Continue reading

Sue Post and Jim Levine walk across a field to observe northern lights on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Aurora dazzles over Homer

Good viewing was seen on Tuesday, Wednesday

Mike Chihuly and Crosson on a snowshoe outing in a blizzard in Ninilchik. (Photo courtesy Mike Chihuly)
Ninilchik author explores bird dog hunting in latest work

The book features photos and recollections of more than 40 years hunting Alaska game birds with dogs.

Tracy Silta (left) administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to Melissa Linton during a vaccine clinic at Soldotna Prep School on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
District vaccine clinic sees large turnout

The clinic was targeted specifically to KPBSD staff

Most Read