Story last updated at 7/31/2013 - 1:53 pm
A big celebration of food, music, and all things blueberry is about to begin - for the 38th year - in Ketchikan.
"The whole thing kicks off Friday afternoon with the pet and doll parade," said Anita Maxwell, Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council program director. "We have lots of blue dogs in particular that make their way through. We've had rabbits, we've had iguana's we've had a little bit of everything walking down Main Street."
Maxwell said it started as a group of people that wanted to be able to sell their artwork, and it grew into a big community celebration. More than 8,000 people typically attend annually, depending upon how many cruise ships are in town during the festival. A lot of people from all over Southeast Alaska attend, but particularly Prince of Wales Islanders.
There will be about 140 booths, of which Maxwell estimates 80-90 percent are arts and crafts. Most of the rest are food - blueberry smoothies, blueberry ice cream, and anything other dish a person could reasonably expect to find blueberries in.
"Everything from jewelry to hand turned bowls and lots of different hand made art, hand made soaps, lots of photography, lots of interesting things made out of driftwood," Maxwell said. "Pretty much if someone can make it, someone is selling it at the Blueberry Arts Festival."
Artwork will be featured in an annual exhibit, some of it includes the blueberry theme, but because it's the only all-call art exhibit for the year there also is a wide variety of non-themed art on display at the Main Street Gallery.
Last year was the first time the Ketchikan Medieval and Renaissance Society included a mini Renaissance Festival into the Blueberry Arts Festival. Maxwell said that's growing this year.
"They had wooden horses," Maxwell said. "Kids and adults got to play on jousting. They're expanding that and calling it Medieval Mayhem."
There also will be a community art project in front of the Main Street Gallery, where roofing paper is laid out with paint and brushes. The theme is "Ketchikan Underwater."
"Folks can have a spin on a community art project," Maxwell said.
One of the main events is the Gigglefeet Dance Festival - now the 16th year. It's on Friday and Sunday evening. Maxwell said it's a chance for the dancers and choreographers in the community to "do their thing." Last year there were 25 dance groups.
"There are so many local, talented dancers," Maxwell said. "Last year I was so impressed. This year, a lot of the folks who participated will be coming back."
That will be in the Ketchikan High School Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. both evenings.
What's in the name - why blueberries? Maxwell said she believes it was partly timing. This time of year local bakers are gathering blueberries and getting them ready for winter. With all the hard work in the summer gathering berries, this was something that could be celebrated. And boy do they do it with flair.
In addition to the foods, blue dogs, art work featuring blueberries, most vendors include a blueberry element. Some will create an item specifically for the festival. Others will dress up their booths - of course this is promoted via prizes for the best blueberry booth.
Then there's the blueberry dish contest. Maxwell said last year there was a homemade blueberry marshmallow made, something that the crowd was in awe of.
"A local fisherman had made the most divine blueberry marinated salmon," she said. "We've had everything you can imagine. We've had a blueberry pizza and a blueberry pasta in the past few years. Those are two delicious treats I never would have thought of."
When Saturday - the main day with the food - is over, she said you can see the blueberry theme on the kids' faces. Perhaps one too many blueberry smoothies.
Another highlight is the Battle of the Bands competition, which runs from noon-5 p.m. in the Methodist Church parking lot.
"We give an award for the best blueberry song," Maxwell said. "It's usually a charming and amusing treat."
Maxwell said there's plenty of room for the festival to grow into the future.
"What I love about it is it has so many different opportunities for growth depending on what the community wants to see," she said. "There are so many opportunities for local organizations to come forward and say, I want to add this event or contest. We very much encourage that and like to see that community participation."
For more information see www.ketchikanarts.org.
Sarah Day is the managing editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.