Salmonfest attendees participate in the annual art installation by Homer artist and activist Mavis Muller on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 at Salmonfest in Ninilchik, Alaska. The message of this year’s art piece was “S.O.S.” or “Save our salmon.” (Photo by Brandon Hill)

Salmonfest attendees participate in the annual art installation by Homer artist and activist Mavis Muller on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 at Salmonfest in Ninilchik, Alaska. The message of this year’s art piece was “S.O.S.” or “Save our salmon.” (Photo by Brandon Hill)

Point of View: Salmonfest strives to celebrate salmon and support sobriety

As a career producer, business owner and employer of many, I have always implored my staff to provide the most courteous service to our patrons as possible. I remind them that while we might please 99% of our guests, the one person that we don’t please doesn’t give a hoot about the other 99.

With all due respect to Mr. Stark in his Point of View last week, he appears to be that one person. While we have nine years of anecdotal and empirical evidence to refute much of what he contends, we’re not going to argue that everything has been perfect or that his experience or perception is invalid. That being said, his feelings are much more the exception than the rule. We gather hundreds of questionnaires from our festival guests each year in addition to thousands of emails, Facebook messages, phone calls and face-to-face encounters with our guests, subcontractors and the general public that suggest we are doing something right.

We take a great deal of pride in the festival’s family friendly atmosphere. Parents feel comfortable letting their children run loose within the confines of the grounds. We have a sober tent and have supported AA meetings at the festival. Our professional security team reported far fewer incidents in 2019 than in previous years. Moreover, the Ninilchik businesses community has complimented all of us on the collective manners and behavior of the thousands of attendees that engulf their village each year.

Medical incidents were down, per capita beer consumption was lower than the two years prior, and I can assure you that if any security personnel was drinking on the job, they would have been fired immediately. We did have one member of our security team drinking off duty while still wearing his staff shirt but that situation was dealt with swiftly.

The Alaska State Troopers have told us that Salmonfest creates the fifth largest city in Alaska yet elicits a lower proportion of problems. We had exactly zero fights, arrests, and to our knowledge, not a single DUI. Our bartenders are certified professionals who are required by law to deny service to anyone who is noticeably intoxicated.

Again, we don’t want to diminish or deny the experience that Mr. Stark spoke about, but we would like to point out that each of us has a unique experience every day whether in a family, a school, a community or at a festival. That is why we encourage as much feedback as possible and are thankful to those who take the time to provide it.

The foundational component of Salmonfest has been, and will always be, the celebration of the iconic, timeless, renewable and miraculous resource that is Salmon. It ties Alaskans together in a way that transcends all distinctions and people come from all over the state, country and globe come to join in the festivities. In fact, tickets were sold in over 40 states and 15 countries.

We are supportive of sobriety and donate to causes that help those who struggle with substance abuse. We work very hard to put on the best event possible and we do as much as we can to support the community. We donate tens of thousands of dollars each year to myriad organizations too numerous to mention here and will continue to do so as long as we possibly can — visit Salmonfestalaska.org for a complete list.

I would like to point out another company mantra: “If you like us, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell us.” So Bob — I urge you to contact myself or anyone in our management team in real time if you have issues with any endeavor we might be involved with. I can assure you that we will take your concerns seriously and will do our best to address them.

Aberrant behavior has been and will be dealt with immediately. That’s why we have a professional security team and diligent staff. Indeed we wish you had done so in real time. Nevertheless, we genuinely appreciate the feedback. I have no doubt your view is indeed 100% valid from your point of view, but we take some solace from the fact that most people at the festival had a profoundly different experience.

Jim Stearns is the Salmonfest festival director and a longtime music and concert promoter.

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