Point of View: Salmonfest should be about more than drugs, alcohol

What is the point of Salmonfest? To celebrate salmon, enjoy live music, delicious food and tasty drinks in the company of friends and family? To feel connected with other Alaskans, promote local art and business? To have fun? Or is it an excuse to spend the weekend high on drugs and alcohol?

I don’t really know, anymore.

Dozens of people used the Sober Tent to take a break from the toxic circus. One woman came to escape grabby people groping her body. How many women are groped and/or verbally molested during the festival? Others came for a safe place for kids, information on ways to pursue sobriety, or to take pictures with the sign to show sober friends who stayed. Dozens thanked us for providing a sober option, and I would like to thank Jim Stearns of Salmonfest for promoting recovery.

During my early afternoon Zero Waste shifts, I couldn’t help but notice stumbling adults and teenagers high on who knows what, security guards chugging beers on shift, and people still drunk from the night before. Children stood outside the tent watching parents drink; others went in to be with their parents.

After dark, packs of wild teenagers ran around unsupervised while too many adults were too intoxicated to care. Creepers prowled and drug pushers found victims.

As a lifelong Alaskan, I love salmon, listening to live music, eating delicious food, drinking tasty nonalcoholic drinks, feeling connected to other Alaskans and spending time with friends. Yet I am appalled by the acceptance and promotion of drugs and alcohol at Salmonfest. I am not trying to sound like an old prude; heck, I am a 35-year-old skateboarder who still loves to party. But it is a shame to think that the only way to have fun anymore is by using drugs.

I see the positive sides of the festival and look forward to it every year. I recognize responsible parents ensuring the safety of their teens, hundreds of happy children playing with parents in the kid zone, people enjoying tasty drinks while enjoying the music, speakers between bands talking about mines and salmon, and passionate folks representing various organizations informing the public about the importance of our signatures, our votes, and our voices. I am thankful for these things; however, I am concerned that the positive is being overshadowed by the negative, and I need to use my voice.

While we live in the most beautiful part of the natural world, our state is polluted by drug and alcohol abuse. Rape is 2.5 times higher than the national average. People move here and come to visit not only because of the landscapes, but because of the kindness and friendliness of our people. We Alaskans are good folks, but many of us have problems with drugs and alcohol. I know I do. We need to stop promoting the “coolness” of being high and start promoting the “coolness” of being morally responsible.

Thank you for reading; until next year …