San Diego native Dennis Brown, on a six-month assignment with Coast Guard District 17 in Juneau, enjoys a piece of corn-on-the-cob grilled by The Ugly's Of Haines during the 2014 Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines on Saturday, Aug. 2.
The merry-go-round was one of many amusements for younger fair goers during the 2014 Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines on Saturday, Aug. 2.
Majorette Lorrie Dudezik leads the Haines Community Marching Band along Main Street during the 2014 Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines on Saturday, Aug. 2.
Juneau's Cora Lou Soboleff makes a new friend at the 2014 Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines on Saturday.
Story last updated at 8/6/2014 - 10:24 pm
HAINES - Sitting in the back of an open pickup truck amid shards and strands and stalks and tailings of hay, my feet pressed against one side of the muddy truck bed, my hands and back against the other, bumping down a dirt road, the wind rushing past doing nothing to dilute the smell of some animal that may have ridden where I did ... I was on my way to the fair!
The 2014 Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines attracts visitors from as far away as Georgia and various Canadian metropolises, but most visitors are local community residents who have the time to motor uvp Lynn Canal or fly over a glacier pass.
"We would always dock in Bill Thomas' slip at the harbor when he was out gillnetting on the south end," Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan said. "We would just sleep on the boat for three or four nights."
That boat was Egan's old trawler, the Jill Marie.
For me, this day's mooring was the Alaska Seaplanes morning flight to Haines.
Pilot William told us he had read the manual so we were good to fly, and when we landed he stated the controls had not been touched the whole flight.
It seems there is an autopilot, NASA developed, laser-guided GPS course designed for the Haines Fair ... at least there should be.
So upon arrival, after the hayride to the fairgrounds, I discovered I was hours ahead of the activities.
I entered Haines. I heard music.
Music is everywhere during the fair. It comes from house windows, from store workers on break, seasonal workers in front yards, even Sen. Egan, who drummed on the outdoor table at Mountain Market and Cafe with various Juneau notables, Haines dignitaries and a cast of characters that resembled a screening call for another season of "LOST."
I followed a flowering of fiddle/violin notes to the Hammer Museum.
Museum intern Rachel Cannon of Washington, D.C., who has been a pianist since age 8 and has played orchestra viola since 10, rosined her bow through melodies.
"I am a fiddle player, more or less," Cannon said. "I am trying to learn how to play the fiddling style."
I am not sure if the fiddle made the hammers interesting or vice-versa, but the tones were captivating.
I danced among over 2,000 hammers belonging to owner Dave Pahl.
There were hammers for check cancelling, wagon pin hammers that also hitched doublers to the tongues of Conestoga wagons; a 2500 BC Egyptian hammer (aka a rock, archeologist and geologist certified); drink hammers from the 1920s and 1930s used for tapping on empty glasses to demand a refill; glass; cigar box; marking; cobbler; lasting; relasting; a 36-pound claw hammer; a hillbilly women-getting hammer; a wife trainer; a photo of Don Stevenson (who has over 12,000 hammers); railroad; cattle stunning; pig killing; fly killer; mallets and ballpeins.
Fact: Ballpein is correctly spelled multiple ways, including pene, pean, peen, pien and pane.
There was a Tlingit slave killer and warriors pick, an 800 year-old hammer used for ceremoniously sacrificing one or more slaves to be buried under the corner post when a new longhouse was built.
"The museum is more interesting than you think," Cannon said.
Musician Jedediah Blum-Evitts, a seasonal worker who is now a four-year library worker, joined her.
Haines does that, lures you in and traps you with its beauty.
The duo moved out to the lawn to practice.
The music of their play blew over lines of multi-generational faces that lined both sides of Main Street as the Grand Parade came into view, complete with a majorette and marching band.
"We believed that the parade needed music," Haines Community Marching Band majorette Lorrie Dudezik said. "And band organizer Susie Waterhouse got us all together, all the musicians in town. The Southeast Fair is a time when Haines gets to show off what a great place it is."
The two-year-old band was just behind the red sports car carrying Egan and Haines's 3-year mayor and 40-year resident, Stephanie Scott.
"It is like old home week," Scott said. "Everybody meets everybody else and people they haven't seen for a long time. There are parties everywhere. Just hanging out and visiting with everybody who comes is the best part."
Fair roadie and Haines School District business manager Judy Erekson was busy with sound systems.
"The good food, the good music, that is what brings everyone to the fair," Erekson said. "Sunshine and friendly people and just getting out of Dodge, wherever you are from. You can't beat it. People watching and eating food you don't normally eat."
There was author, basketball player and costumed bear Joe Parnell; a leashed onslaught of Most Lovable Dog show contestants; the Haines High School alumni; golf carts; fire trucks; the Juneau Jumpers; Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Dancers and tourists; all made a path to the fair.
"It is really kind of a celebration of the culture of the region," said band member and Chilkat Valley News editor Tom Morphet, a 30-year resident. "The rest of it we kind of fake and make up as we go. It is the whole region's fair but I think we have it here because we get a little bit more sunshine."
Having never been to the Southeast fair, I had no clue. Being Swedish, festivals always had a fishy odor.
The fair smells are different but the atmosphere is the same: Family, friends, food and music.
Haines mother, author and runner Heather Lende has lived in Haines for 30 years.
"The fair is just fun, and it is really local," Lende said. "It is very homegrown, and I think part of that is kind of centered on a bunch of people from Haines that like to put on a party for everybody, and it works. There are little kids, older folks, the twirler hippy people and everybody is having a good time at different times of the day or night. I am always just amazed that there is this much energy put into something that is basically just a five-day party for the fun of it. I love it."
There is a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, train rides, games, petting zoo, food court, clothing booths, informational booths, competitions and music.
"Most years we are here," Juneau's Nate Soboleff said as his daughter Cora Lou fed hay to a goat. "It is close to Juneau, has all kinds of fun stuff for the kids, has good food and music and is just a great weekend."
In one corner of the celebration, musical background notes gave way to the clang of metal on metal.
Bill Finlay has been organizing the Guy Hoffman Horseshoe Tournament for eight years.
These are not blacksmithy wannabes shoeing as many equines as possible, their muscular forearms exerting crushing blows on hot metal extracted from blazing fires, the "black" fire scale of oxides forming until the hammer "smythes" down upon it.
Nope, the horseshoe tourney is actually pitching the U-shaped iron 'shoes' at a metal upright spike in a sodden pit.
The forearms were there however, on both men and women, as they held the shoe at arm's length, caulks down, gripped for a one, two, or three-and-a-quarter turn ... others just tossed the metal, snapping their wrists with the basic rookie mistake.
"It is the Zen of the shoe," Finlay said. "You have to throw it straight, you have to throw it the right distance, and it has to land so it hooks the stake. And, of course, you have to know the grips, if you want to win."
Finlay has been living in Haines for 25 years and knows why the fair is popular.
"It is always sunny like this," Finlay said with a minor stretch of the truth. "Even in the record rainiest summer of the year, we get three days of sunshine for the fair, guaranteed."
Juneau Symphony member Steve "The Crab" Tada entered the fiddle contest and played a fiddle built by a friend from a log in Haines. He was also entertaining a friend visiting from West Seattle, where Tada grew up. Fairs are about friends and family.
"I just came for the fair," Tada said. "I thought what the heck, it is just for fun, and so I will play. I came to the fair about 10 years ago and it was so muddy and rainy I doubted I would ever come back. But the weather was just too nice."
The 2014 SE Fair Fiddle Champion was Sammy Lind who, along with wife Nadine Landry, vacation plenty in Whitehorse when not immersed in musical travels.
"I have actually never been here before," Lind said. "I came down here to meet up with some friends from Juneau who are in the North Country Cajun Club, and we just came to dance and listen to them. We had a great time and ended up doing the fiddle contest, won that and got to play. It was pretty neat and really fun."
It was also his wife's birthday, and she joined him in the winner's set on the main stage.
"We got to go up there and play for 10 minutes," Lind said. "That was super fun. We had no expectations and this has exceeded any kind of thoughts we had. It has been a really fun weekend."
Smyrna, Georgia residents Julie Allen and Teresa Tew participated in the Fisherman's Rodeo. "I did the fishing lure," Allen said. "And the life preserver thing."
Added Tew, "And we watched the log rolling things. That was great fun. For a small town, this was a pretty big deal."
Martay, part of the Extreme Tour Artists, a culture outreach project, came from Southern California.
"We just bring hope to different communities," Martay said. "Usually small ones throughout the USA. We are just here to have fun and meet people. See what they are up to and see if we can bring a little more hope and joy to their lives. The bands here have been a lot of fun because they come to just play and they make a lot of friends."
The Haines Fair invited Extreme Tour headliner The Lacks, who in turn invited the tour.
The Lacks family (father Scott, mother Paula, daughters Deborah, Sarah and Chloe) sold everything they owned five years ago to travel extensively with their music-inspired faith.
"Music is so powerful," 12-year-old Chloe Lacks said. "The people here are so friendly, everyone is so nice."
Incidentally ... the Hammer Of The Week at the Hammer Museum was the Platter, used in 1926 to stimulate the facial muscles for beautification.
I used it to soften my cheeks before consuming fraternal corn on the cob from The Ugly's of Haines while watching the Skagway Aerial Co., Sarah Moon, Whiskeydicks, Hot Toddies, and The Lacks bring a sun-worn crowd to their feet in dance.
You cannot top the Haines Fair.
Pilot Ben tried on the flight home. We skipped the normal channel route and skimmed glaciers and mountain peaks.
It was breathtaking.
But in our tailwind, rising in the background, were the music, the smell of grilled corn and the laughter of the young and the old.