By Ed Kobak
Salmonstock’s second year, billed as “Three Days of Fish, Fun and Music,” was both a celebration of music and a rally of support of the Bristol Bay watershed and its wild salmon in a fight against the proposed Pebble Mine development.
Sponsored by the Renewable Resources Coalition, Salmonstock acts as a forum for the protection of wild salmon and salmon habitat.
Whether in Ninilchik for a passion for music or an interest in providing support for the protection of salmon in the Bristol Bay watershed, “for the people who depend harmoniously upon them,” as stated by RRC, Salmonstock offered a weekend of festivities that did not disappoint.
Salmonstock attracted approximately 3,000 festival-goers who arrived by cars, campers or hitchhiking, with many tent-camping across from the fairgrounds or camping in the state parks at Deep Creek, Ninilchik View and Ninilchik River.
For many, it was simply a celebration of music. If Salmonstock sounds too much like a political rally or a “cause” event, a simple stroll through the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik would show it was not only a celebration for wild Alaska salmon but a festival that brought thousands of Alaskans, and many outsiders from as far away as Georgia, Maine, New York, Texas, Minnesota, California and a smattering of other states, together for great music, art, food and education.
Along with the RRC’s Sign the No Pebble Mine Petition booth were others staffed by Cook InletKeeper, Alaska Conservation Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, Friends of the Mat-Su and Chuitna.org. There also was a booth containing information on Vote for the Coast, encouraging voters to vote yes on Proposition 2 on Aug. 28 in order to restore a coastal management program in Alaska.
There were other booths offering information on other causes, along with the popular Artists in Residence program next to the Ocean Stage to meet the talented Salmonstock artists. There was also a Knowledge Center that featured a variety of informative presentations by wild salmon experts on the frontlines of protecting Alaska’s renewable resources.
Another presence at the fairgrounds throughout the weekend were the idle east side commercial set-net fishermen, who were informing people about their shutdown while passing out flyers to the crowd. A sign was passed through the crowd at the Ocean Stage stating, “We support our local set-netters.”
Around the fairgrounds were booths set up by food vendors and local restaurants that were doing a brisk business offering Alaska fare and cuisine. In addition to the music and art, people could also find fire dancers and kid’s activities, such as face-paining and hair-spraying, which were enjoyed by many adults as well.
While Salmonstock acts as a forum for the protection of wild salmon, it also has morphed itself into one of Alaska’s premier music festivals, if not the top music festival in Alaska, especially with this year’s cancellation of the annual music festival in Talkeetna, which was a staple for music-goers for so many years. Long beyond the fight against Pebble Mine, it is hoped that Salmonstock will continue as a premier music festival in Ninilchik and offer its power and voice on other hot-button topics in Alaska. With over 50 different acts and bands entertaining, it was certainly a celebration of music, fish and fun.
Leading off Friday under sunny skies was Red Shirt Revival and the Holy Santos Gang on the Ocean Stage, and Hot Dish on the River Stage with Ivan Knight and Spiff on the Inlet Stage. Friday night’s headliner band to close out the evening on the Ocean stage was Ozomatli, a seven-piece Latino rock band from Los Angeles, with three Grammy awards under its belt. They rocked the stage with salsa, rock, hip-hop, jazz and funk, leading me to reminisce about my traveling days throughout Latin America. Many might recognize Ozomatli from its live appearance on the “Dancing with the Stars” TV show. They also have performed for President Barack Obama and opened a tour for Santana.
Saturday was another great day of music under cloudy skies with afternoon and evening rain that brought out the umbrellas, raincoats and the ever-popular new women’s fashion symbol of Alaska, the mud boots. The rain certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the lively and colorfully festival-dressed large crowd that was buoyed by Saturday’s offering to Groupon coupon members, making this the heaviest-attended day of the three-day festival.
One of the highlights for many Salmonstockers on Saturday was participating in the “Keep it Wild” human mosaic aerial art, presented by Homer’s Mavis Muller, Salmonstock’s aerial art designer and facilitator. As Mavis proudly quipped, the Action of Art Human Mosaic had over 400 participants.
Muller is the creator and facilitator of the increasingly popular annual Burning Basket event that takes place in Homer, this year on Sept. 16. Participants in the “Keep it Wild” mosaic received photos of last year’s human mosaic. Muller proudly proclaimed on the Ocean Stage that everyone in the fairgrounds was a “Wild Salmon Warrior.”
The highlights of Sunday’s final day of musical performers were the crowd-pleasing quintet Greensky Bluegrass from Michigan, with its poignant rural ballads, grit and attitude and great rock ’n’ roll that lit up the fans on the Ocean Stage lawn.
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