"It's pretty slimy," laughed Janet Sheldon of the game, which is only one of the many events scheduled for the 11th Annual Dog Salmon Festival, held in Kake, Alaska. "And people really enjoy watching it."
More than 500 people are expected at this year's festival, which will take place at the Kake Community Hall on Saturday, July 23rd. "We've had people attend from as far away as Florida, and this year, we've even had calls from Hawaii," said Sheldon, the administrative assistant at Kake Tribal Corporation. "We're just waiting to see who shows up."
The Dog Salmon Festival first got its start back in 1995, when Gordon Jackson and Peter Metcalfe were discussing the fact that Kake Foods used to hold a community picnic to celebrate the fishing season.
Photo courtesy of Peter Metcalfe The canoe race is only one of the many activities at the Kake Dog Salmon Festival
This year, people will be coming from Juneau and Sitka on catamarans, and possibly on a fast ferry from Petersburg.
"We're hoping that lots of people want to come and enjoy the day with us," said Sheldon.
And what a day it will be. Events include a variety of kids' races, a bike race and a 5K co-ed race.
"We're also having a surprise dignitary race," laughed Sheldon, who wouldn't say whether the dignitaries' identities would be the surprise, or the fact that they would suddenly find themselves running.
Other speed events include a kayak and a couples' double kayak race, as well as the fish tote race, in which two participants load into a fish tote and try to span the distance between two points with the best time. The Festival will also feature the Great Challenge of the Chums canoe race, which attracts teams from all over Southeast.
Of course, after all of this athleticism, festival-goers will be hungry, and they won't be disappointed with the menu.
"This year, we're doing something new at the community picnic," said Sheldon. "We're adding traditional native foods, including smoked fish, seaweed and eggs, seaweed and clams, fried seaweed and rice, and pickled gumboots." She added that they are also hoping to have a crab feed.
Mixing the spirit of competition with a love of fine food, the festival will again host the very popular "famous" food and dessert contest as well as a fish filleting contest. As a special surprise, Marvin Kadake will demonstrate how to clean a fish in two cuts, Sheldon said.
Beginning at 11 p.m., a dance will be held with the band Tung 'n' Groov out of Ketchikan, which will mark the end of the day's festivities.
"Tickets are selling fast, so you should get them now if you want to come," said Sheldon.
Ed. Note: Tickets are available by contacting Debbie James at (907) 790-3075 or 723-8616.