PUBLISHED: 6:49 AM on Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Kake invites 'chums' to annual Dog Salmon Festival
KAKE - What began 14 years ago as a community barbecue celebrating the one-millionth pound of processed salmon has since grown into a Southeast Alaska festival dedicated to chums - both the aquatic and human kind.

The 14th Annual Kake Dog Salmon Festival will be held July 26, returning with the classic events like the fish fillet and dog salmon recipe contests, while also adding new events like the Elvis Presley impersonator contest.

Former Kake Tribal Corporation President Gordon Jackson and Peter Metcalf, of Juneau, co-founded the original event. Jackson said the festival's founding was "by accident."

Kake fisheries held a local festival and during a board meeting in 1994, Jackson proposed that "maybe next year we can do something different and have a dog salmon festival and we can invite all our chums."

The idea was a success and the rest has become part of Kake tradition.

"It became almost a fixture in the community," Jackson said.

The festival now attracts nearly 400 visitors annually.

photos courtesy of Peter Metcalf
  Canoe races and dancing are just a few of the scheduled events held during the 14th annual Kake Dog Salmon Festival on July 26
Dog salmon, or chum, has long been a sustenance food for the Tlingit in Kake, partially due to how well the fish preserves when dried and smoked, but also because of the abundance.

Jackson said the festival has served king and silver salmon in the past, explaining "we only serve the best for our chums."

The Gunnuk Salmon Hatchery ensures a bountiful return of dog salmon each year, guaranteeing plenty of fish for the table - and for the salmon tossing contests.

Gunnuk Creek runs through the middle of Kake, providing not only ample fishing but also some of the best wildlife viewing in Southeast, said Metcalf, who also is a professional photographer.

"This is the best place in the world to photograph black beers," he said. "You have a creek with great light and sometimes you'll have a dozen (black bears) feeding at the creek. At the same time eagles are swooping down. It's an interesting site."

Metcalf described Kake is an "ideal village for people to visit" to get a sense of small community life in Southeast. Kake also boasts the world's tallest totem pole.

Kake's Janet Sheldon returns for the 14th year as organizer for the event. Sheldon said there will be plenty of food and games for everyone.

photo courtesy of Peter Metcalf
  Canoe races and dancing are just a few of the scheduled events held during the 14th annual Kake Dog Salmon Festival on July 26
Allen Marine catamarans, which hold about 120 people and 10 crew, will depart Juneau and Sitka in the early morning on July 26. Visitors will be greeted by Ruth Demmert and Kake dancers upon arrival. Kake Tribal Corporation President Harold Martin and Kake Mayor Henrich Kadake will also be in attendance to welcome guests.

Other events will include a Blessing of the Fleet, a 5K race, the "Great Challenge of the Chums" canoe race, a karaoke contest and a special tribute to retired Kake physician Robert Carlson.

"Everybody gets involved and I'm happy to see it still continuing after 14 years," Jackson said. "This brings people together to have a real good time in the middle of the summer."

Travel arrangements

Round trip catamaran tickets from Juneau and Sitka cost $130. In Juneau contact Geraldine Willis at (907) 957-6222. In Sitka contact Jackie DeBell at (907) 738-8525. You can also contact Janet Sheldon at (907) 785-3410 or by e-mail at

In Juneau, the Allen Marine catamaran will leave Don Statter Public Boat Harbor in Auke Bay at 6:00 a.m.

From Sitka, the catamaran will leave from Crescent Harbor Visitors Dock at 5:00 a.m.

photo courtesy of Peter Metcalf
Both catamarans will arrive in Kake between 10-10:30 a.m. and will leave Kake at 5:00 p.m.

Remember to dress warm and bring a snack. Some food and beverages will be sold on the boat. Sheldon advises bringing a camera because of all the ocean life that can be seen during the trip. Both boats will be locked while tied up in Kake.

Schedule of Events

• 10am: Children games begin (by Russ Jackson and Mitchell Paul), including 1 yr. old Tiny Tot Foot Race; 2-3 yrs. Foot Race; 4-5 yrs. Foot Race; chewing gum contest for all ages; 6-10 yrs Scooter Race; 8-10 yrs Bike Race; Adults Gum Chewing Race (special request)

• 10:30am: Ruth Demmert & Kake Dancers welcome visitors

• 11am: Native Dancers Entrance (Kake, Juneau & Sitka); turn in food/dessert to judge in kitchen (opened to everyone).

• 11:45am: National Guard & Local Veterans Post Colors; KTC President and Mayor of Kake welcome visitors and "Special Tribute to Robert Carlson, MD"

• 11:45am: Local Pastors Blessing of the Fleet & Food)

• 12pm: Barbeque/Picnic begins; Food & Dessert Winner announced (Prizes: $75, $50, $25 in each category)

• 12pm: 5 K Race /Men/Woman (prizes $125., $100. & $75.00 - Inspirational Prize/Oldest Runner - $100.00)

• 12:15pm: Queen Candidates introduction/sell tickets until 3:00 pm; $500.00 Raffle (tickets sold until 4:00 pm at t-shirt table)

• 12:15pm: Christian Music

• 12:30pm: "Elvis Presley Impersonator Contest" (Prizes: $75, $50 & $25 - local & visitors encouraged to compete in everything)

• 12:45pm: Karaoke/Lip Sync Contest (Prizes $50., $30., & $20. each category)

• 1pm: Line Dance with Tim & Laurie Moore

• 1:30pm: Fish Fillet Contest ($5.00 entry fee /18 yrs up - Prizes: $100, $75, $50)

• 1:30pm: Fish Tote Race ($5.00 entry/16yrs up w/life jacket - Prizes: $75, $50, $25)

• 2pm: "The Great Challenge of the Chums Canoe Race" begins

• 4pm: Crowning of the Queen & announcement of prize winners

• 4:30pm: Visitors return to catamarans to depart at 5:00pm.

- Matthew Bell will serve as Master of Ceremonies. DJ Denton Pearson will entertain everyone with 50's & 60's music throughout the day.