PUBLISHED: 4:50 PM on Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Any weather is 'Fair' weather
Most fairs across the country seem similar at first glace. Families come to ride a Ferris wheel, eat corn-on-the-cob, pet some farm animals and listen to music. But the Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines last weekend couldn't have passed for a fair anywhere else but in Alaska.

Haines experienced Friday what one resident referred to as "Juneau weather" - pouring rain the entire day as the fairgrounds quickly filled with mud puddles. This might have put a huge damper on events elsewhere, but in Southeast Alaska fairgoers just put on their Xtra-Tufs and rain gear and enjoyed the festivities.

The rain didn't stop one brave man from demonstrating two of the fair's new attractions: John Binger, with a little help from his friends, hopped on the mechanical bull while wearing an inflatable sumo suit.

On Friday evening hundreds of people with dripping hair and glistening rain gear crowded around the fairground main stage, standing on slippery benches or even in rain outside the shelter to watch some kids jump rope. But not just any kids: the Juneau Jumpers are nationally-ranked competitive jump-ropers, and most everyone seemed to know they were worth watching. Even headlining musicians didn't attract quite as large a crowd.

And the opportunity to come together as a regional community and celebrate local talent - from jump-ropers to musicians to axe-throwers - is what makes the Fair worth a ferry ride and a day of getting drenched.

Most Southeast Alaskans spend a lot of the year in isolated communities. It's easy to forget about the larger regional community we have. Luckily, we have great events like the Fair to remind us.

I didn't recognize a lot of people at the fair, but the footwear was familiar and it was never hard to find a way to strike up a conversation. By the end of the weekend, I had a few new friends from Skagway, Haines and even my hometown of Juneau.

I've only lived in Southeast Alaska three years, but I'm starting to understand how regional events like the State Fair, Folk Fest and Celebration double as regional reunions. This was only my second fair, yet I kept looking for people I'd met last year.

During parts of the year if feels like there's a festival going on somewhere in Southeast almost every weekend. This coming weekend the Blueberry Arts Festival promises to bring together hundreds of people from the Ketchikan area and beyond (see preview on page A8).

And unlike in other parts of the country, event organizers in Southeast don't have to worry too much about rain - we'll come anyway, and even enjoy splashing in the mud puddles.