By Ed Kobak, for the Redoubt Reporter
The fourth installment of the Salmonstock Music Festival takes center stage Friday through Sunday at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds in what promises to be the most heavily attended of the annual event.
Officially, “Salmonstock is a celebration of wild Alaskan Salmon and the people that depend on them. It’s also the power we have to protect our renewable resources.” Festivalgoers also know it as a blend of salmon, music, food, art and beer. Salmonstock, sponsored by the Renewable Resources Foundation, blends a small-town country atmosphere with a highly charged and established music festival in what amounts to three days of fun and music for “wild salmon warriors” from across the state and other environs.
According to Salmonstock’s media director, Kate Huber, this year’s event is expecting to draw 6,500 people.
“We’ve sold more presale tickets than any other year,” she said.
Last year’s festival drew more than 5,500, so be prepared to get there early as parking is limited at the fairground parking lot across the Sterling Highway. Paid parking is available at the adjacent church north of the fairgrounds and the American Legion just to the south along the highway.
Salmonstock prides itself on being a family friendly event, so be sure to bring kids to the Small Fry area, which has an animal petting area, coloring books, face painting and other children’s activities, including the ever-popular giant outdoor slide that had long lines throughout last year’s festival.
One of the most unique elements of the festival is the Action of Art Aerial Human Mosaic, which takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday in the rodeo grounds. Homer artist Mavis Muller is the creator/facilitator of this human interactive event that drew more than 500 participants last year. Muller, the creator of the annual end-of-summer Burning Basket event in Homer, also is bringing “Fireball,” a huge, woven alder branch sculpture to be on display near the Ocean Stage.
Other popular areas are the beer garden just off the Ocean Stage, which is always packed, under tight security, with orderly wild salmon warriors listening to the music and enjoying their favorite beverages among friends.
The food court will again have a plethora of great food from a wide array of vendors offering the typical fair food of burgers, hot dogs, pizza and ice cream to cultural foods, such as Mexican, Thai, Korean, New Orleans Cajun and Chinese, to grilled cheese sandwiches, bacon pancakes and a great sampling of fresh Alaska seafood.
There also are educational tents and displays around Salmonstock from the likes of the Renewable Resources Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, Wild Salmon Center, StopPebble.org and others.
But the main draw is the music. This year’s lineup has multi-Grammy Award-winning Ozomatli, of Los Angeles, as headliners. They were a huge hit at the 2012 Salmonstock with their electro-cumbia, garage rock, hip hop, mambo street-party music, closing out Saturday night from 11 p.m. until close on the main Ocean Stage.
Prior to Ozomatli on the Ocean Stage at 9 p.m. Saturday will be Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, with blend of country, blues, rock and folk.
Another crowd favorite is sure to be Poor Man’s Whiskey, hailing from northern California, at 5 p.m. Saturday on the River Stage. It’s an Allman Brothers tribute band with foot-stomping “high-octane hootenanny.”
Kenai Peninsula favorite 907 will perform on the Ocean Stage at 5:40 p.m. Friday. Another Alaska favorite is the Super Saturated Sugar Strings, of Anchorage, which played at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Kenai River Festival in June, and will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday on the River Stage. Also from Anchorage is the Whipsaws, playing at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Ocean Stage. Other Kenai Peninsula musicians are Roots Rock, Barroom Roses, Shawn Zuke and Williwaw Marimba, out of Homer, and Blackwater Railroad Company from Seward.
Other headliners throughout the weekend include Great American Taxi, Hard Working Americans, Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Keller Williams, Elephant Revival, The Upstarts, Tim Easton, Tony Furtado, Big Fat Buddha, Hot Buttered Rum and a slew of other great musicians and bands.
At the close of Friday and Saturday’s Salmonstock is the hugely popular Headwater’s Late Night Show. The Dirty Hands kick off Friday night, starting at 1 a.m. Saturday, followed by Poor Man’s Whiskey at 2 a.m. until close at 3 a.m. Saturday night’s Headwater’s features Great American Taxi All Star Jam (including many of the headliners) from 1 to 3 a.m. Sunday (but plan on staying beyond the announced closing time). Tickets are separate from the normal pass rates and are a minimal $5 per night. Get there early, as space is limited and well worth it. A full music lineup and schedule appears on http://www.salmonstock.org.
Ed Kobak is a freelance music, sports and adventure travel writer, author of sports reference books and media coordinator for Twin City Raceway.
- Advanced passes through Thursday are $124 for a three-day pass. At the gate, three-days passes are $145. A two-day pass is $115 (Fri/Sat or Sat/Sun), and a daily pass is $60 for Friday or Sunday, or $70 for Saturday.
- The main gate is open from noon to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
- It is a family friendly event, so bring the kids. But do not bring pets, weapons or firearms, laser pointers or glass bottles. No open fires will be allowed, nor will underage drinking or drugs be allowed.
- Come prepared for rain, though weather reports call for a decent weekend.
- Arrive in at the fairgrounds early if tent camping across the street in the fairgrounds parking lot.
- Camping and RV parking is available nearby at Deep Creek and Ninilchik River Alaska State Parks. Arrive early.
- Lodges, motels and fish camps nearby offer overnight accommodations.
For more information and tickets, visit www.salmonstock.org, or call 907-743-1900.