Something nobody told me about Alaska is how many festivals there are in the summer. Having moved to the Kenai Peninsula in the middle of the pandemic, it’s likely that many of the summer events I’ve spent so much time enjoying are making a post-pandemic resurgence.
I don’t consider myself a particularly outgoing person — I don’t like crowds or loud noises — but I’ve come to cherish Alaska’s bluegrass scene. Whether it’s music in Hope, the Solstice Festival in Moose Pass or Salmonfest in Ninilchik, it seems like there’s always fodder for a fun summer night.
It’s for those reasons that I had no reservations about tagging along with some friends to a packrafting and bluegrass “festival” off of the Hope Highway at the end of July. Aside from a mob of cars — mostly Subarus — there was nothing along the road that indicated the festivities underway about a mile into the woods.
We parked the car at a dangerous tilt and followed the young people into the trees. We popped out at one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. A gushing glacial river swirled between an emerald green mountain and the trail from which we’d just come. On the rocky shore, clusters of people danced and laughed around a bonfire.
A blowtorch was set off intermittently from the makeshift stage, where artists performed bluegrass, political spoken word poetry and — at the end of the night — hard metal. A man in the corner cooked hot dogs all night long for anyone who wanted one. Dogs of all types ran amid the crowd.
I had one of those moments that I’ve experienced only since moving to Alaska, the kind of moment where I stop and go, “This is incredible,” to myself. Every time I think I’ve seen the best of the peninsula, it shows me something better. I’m certainly going to miss the summer events, but winter brings its own lineup of ways to get together.
As we enter the magical season of autumn in Alaska, it’s hard not to feel excited about what lies ahead.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.