Haines’ biggest event of the year kicks off Thursday. The Southeast Alaska State Fair draws thousands of people to enjoy diverse musical acts, delicious food and classic fair staples like a carousel and Ferris wheel.
There are some performers who experience the fair once, and keep coming back. The Lack Family Band from northern California is in that category.
“We love Haines,” said Paula Lack. “We call it our third home.”
The ‘family’ part of the Lack Family Band isn’t a metaphor. Paula and Scott are the mom and dad — Paula’s on keyboard, Scott’s on the mic. Their three daughters, Deborah, Sarah and Chloe all play instruments and sing.
They first performed at the fair by accident four years ago. They were on their way to Fairbanks when that gig got cancelled. The fair was happening, so they showed up and found the event coordinator.
“And [we] followed her around with her clipboard, and said ‘would you like to have any other bands at the fair?'” Scott recounts. “And she said ‘I don’t know.’ And then she finally gave us a spot and we ended up playing on all the side stages for two or three days. Since then we’ve been coming back for four years.”
This year, they’ve earned a spot on the Main Stage Friday night.
“We have amazing entertainment this year,” said fair director Jessica Edwards.
She says a lot of people are excited about this year’s main headliner – singer-songwriter Martin Sexton.
There are also some more eclectic acts, like a one-man circus act from Hawaii.
“Our entertainment coordinator saw him in Hawaii performing on the street and thought ‘oh my gosh, this guy would be perfect for the Fair,'” Edwards says. “And he approached him and he didn’t think it would go anywhere, he gave him a card, and this gentlemen, Noah Moore, was in touch and said ‘I want to come.’ And so here he is.”
Other acts include John Brown’s Body, Bad Tenants, Wet City Rockers, Denali Cooks, and Sitka Cirque – formerly known as the Sitka Silkies.
The fair has also maintained its tradition of craft exhibits. People from around Southeast send in everything from quilts to canned goods to Native arts, and the exhibits are judged and displayed during the fair.
“It’s like Christmas for me,” said Dena Stout, the exhibit manager. “When these boxes come in from other places or when these items come in the door, it’s just seeing people’s creativity and their joy in doing what they’re doing, it’s wonderful, I love it.”
Stout says the overall number of exhibits has dwindled this year. But there are some categories, like wearable art, that are bucking that trend. Stout points out one wearable art piece called ‘Coho Antoinette” from a Ketchikan artist.
“It’s a dress that’s made of a blue tarp along with fishing line and fishing netting and buoys and a fish,” Stout says.
The elaborate costume made from recycled materials will get its turn on the catwalk during the wearable art show Friday evening.
And let’s not forget the food. Fair Director Edwards says interest from vendors has increased, so there will be about 20 food booths this year.
That’s good news for The Lack Family Band. They say they keep coming back to Haines because of the people. But the food might have something to do with it too…
“The Chilkat Bakery, they have buttermilk doughnuts, and they are bomb. Like they are so good,” says Deborah Lack.
“Sarah J’s is gonna be there, I’m gonna get all her bagels,” Chloe Lack chimes in.
Food, music, merry-go-round, wearable art — you can find it at the Southeast Alaska State Fair. The fun starts Thursday and continues through Sunday afternoon. More information about tickets and schedule at seakfair.org.