FAIRBANKS — It’s bigger, better and longer, and it’s the top draw of the summer for Fairbanks and Interior Alaska.
The Tanana Valley State Fair begins today and runs through Aug. 12 at the fairgrounds off College Road, with more exhibits, performances and sights than you can shake a piece of meat on a stick at.
Two of the biggest changes this year are the addition of an extra day on Sunday, Aug. 12., and the grounds going smoke-free.
“We’ve been asked for so long why we didn’t run for a whole weekend,” said General Manager Randi Carnahan. “We’re up to the task, and we think the community will support it. It’s good for the vendors and good for the carnival.”
As far as going smoke-free, that change as been in the works for years.
“You would think, on 100 acres, that people smoking out of doors would be not be an issue, but when you have (8,000) to 10,000 people out here, it’s a huge issue. There are people who have breathing issues that can’t be around smoke, that would have issues with it on heavy days,” Carnahan said.
Smoking also carries other hazards, Carnahan said.
“Kids get burned, from somebody going through the crowds with a cigarette in their hand,” she said. “There’s nothing worse than seeing a kid at the fair who is crying on their way to the EMT trailer because they got burned by a cigarette. It not only ruins their day at the fair, it ruins Mom and Dad’s day at the fair.”
Fairgoers will not be banished to the parking lot to do their smoking but can instead go to one of three designated smoking areas evenly spaced throughout the fairgrounds.
“I think it’s just going to be better for everyone. It’s a big deal — whenever we do something new for the first year there’s always that transition period. I’ve been out in the community talking to people about it and the response had been overwhelmingly positive. It was just time — it’s hard to take those necessary steps sometimes to do the right thing, but I’m excited about it,” Carnahan said.
When the fair begins today at noon, here a few things you need to know. For more information on any of the mentions here, and more information on a variety of fair-related items, be sure to check out the fair’s website at www.tananavalleystatefair.com.
What’s a fair without food, right? Corn dogs, cheese curds, cotton candy, deep-fried anything — you can just about find anything you want to gorge on.
The perennial favorite Navajo Taco retired this year, but to make up for its absence, two vendors unique to Alaska are showing up. Tundra Bayou is offering alligator on a stick — likely a first for many Alaskans — and another vendor is offering African street food. Both are worth a try.
Gary Sloan’s American Music band will usher in performances today on the Usibelli Stage from 1-2 p.m., then at the beer tent from 8-10 p.m. Featured on lead guitar is former Fairbanks resident Robert Howard, who helped start Fairbanks’ rock scene in the 1960s, Sloan said. Howard and Sloan met at the Upper Limits (a teen club above the Co-op drug store) in the mid-’60s and have been playing together ever since. Other Anchorage band members include Jim Lasiter on bass and vocals and Dean Reeves on drums.
On Aug. 8, Alaska Heritage Day, under the Big Top Entertainment Tent, fiddlers will take center stage showcasing their skills. Performers include Bill Stevens, Trimble Gilbert, Lincoln Roberts, Lost Dog, the Appalaskan Cloggers and more.
Exhibits and events
It’s a state fair, and as such, expect to see pies, quilts, art, cakes and animals. Lots and lots of animals. The fair is a showcase for 4H members to auction their animals, so be sure to check out the livestock barns in the rear of the fairgrounds to take in all the goats, bunnies, sheep, poultry and bigger livestock that you can.
It’s not just about animals, though. Other notable attractions include the freight dog pull, the mud bogs (which span two days this year), Dancing with the Fairbanks Stars and this year’s newest attraction: zumba.
The fair is hosting it’s first zumba fest, and it’s aiming to be the largest zumba party in Alaska, Carnahan said. The zumba fest is at 8 p.m., Aug. 10.
“We’re always trying to do new things,” Carnahan said, “and we tried to add more events that people could participate in.”
Gate, admission and hours
Season ticket prices
• Adult (ages 18-59) — $35
• Youth (ages 6-17) — $20
• Senior (ages 60 and over) — $20
• Children 5 and under free
Daily admission at the gate
• Adult daily (ages 13-59) — $10
• Youth daily (ages 6-12) — $5
• Senior (ages 60 and over) — $5
• Children 5 and under free
Hours of operation
• Fridays and Saturdays —
noon to 11 p.m.
• Sunday through Thursday
— noon to 10 p.m.
• On the last day, Aug. 12, the gates close at 9 p.m. followed by fireworks.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504. Staff reporter Dorothy Chomicz contributed to this report.