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Slug races, human races, artists, canned goods, beard contests, band battles, creative outpourings and blueberry ball rolls - Ketchikan's Blueberry Arts Festival is packed with creative ways to celebrate the blueberry.
Blueberry central: Ketchikan's 39th annual Blueberry Arts Festival 080614 AE 1 CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY Slug races, human races, artists, canned goods, beard contests, band battles, creative outpourings and blueberry ball rolls - Ketchikan's Blueberry Arts Festival is packed with creative ways to celebrate the blueberry.

Mary Catharine Martin | Ccw

From left to right, Adrianne Antoni, Iwona Edwards, Amanda Slevin, Erica Caudill and Tiffany Kelly pose in blueberried attire before the five-kilometer race. They said they found it much more fun to run in costume.


Mary Catharine Martin | Ccw Photos

Kids finish up the fun run during Ketchikan's Blueberry Arts Festival.


Mary Catharine Martin | Ccw Photos


Mary Catharine Martin | Ccw Photos


Mary Catharine Martin | Ccw Photos

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Story last updated at 8/6/2014 - 10:25 pm

Blueberry central: Ketchikan's 39th annual Blueberry Arts Festival

Slug races, human races, artists, canned goods, beard contests, band battles, creative outpourings and blueberry ball rolls - Ketchikan's Blueberry Arts Festival is packed with creative ways to celebrate the blueberry.

One of the festival classics is the slug race, which Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife manager Boyd Porter has been organizing for the last 14 years.

"I just like getting kids involved the outdoors, and nature," he said. "This is a great one to get kids not only outdoors, but around critters."

Porter shared a slug-race secret he's learned from his years of experience: the big, white banana slugs tend to win. Smaller, darker slugs tend to curl up and go into self-defense mode, he said.

Around 70 kids entered slugs, naming them things like Slippery Pete, Curious George, Smaug, Tinkerbell, Robert, and Slug.

Some of the banana slugs - which also tend to win the weight category - oozed for the edge of the table, away from the starting circle painted in the middle of the table, sliming over each other and occasionally making the course more circuitous than it had to be, to the consternation of those cheering for them.

"C'mon, keep your eyes forward, Ronald! Don't look back! Don't look back!" one man cheered.

The overall winner was named Jonesy, and was raced by three-year-old Hunter.

His uncle, Catfish, cheered for the slug. "I'm sweating over here," he joked after the race. "This was stressful."

Some of the day's contests were faster than others: Tyler Slick, 11, won the one-mile fun run for kids. Morgan Elerding, also 11, was a close second, winning the girls' category. Slick attributed his speed to Elerding.

"She pushed me," he said of his friend, who has done the race several times.

"This was his first time doing it. When he slowed down, I told him to hurry up," Elerding said.

A huge part of the festival is its vendors. This year, 138 vendors participated in the festival.

Linocut artist and book illustrator Evon Zerbetz has been participating in the event since she was a teenager.

"It's nice to interchange with other artists," she said. "It's just nice to interact with people about your art (and) to have one-on-one conversations."

"At the blueberry festival, you get to meet your customer base face to face," said artist Halli Kenoyer. "Their blueberry bling can be pretty fun."

The music community in Ketchikan is thriving as well. Entries in the battle of the bands ranged from heavy metal, to rock, to softer, lullaby-like songs.

Anthony Matthews, of the heavy metal band Buck Up Little Kamper, said one of the things he loves about Ketchikan is its thriving music scene. This was the sixth year the band performed.

"We feel heavy metal ought to be represented, as well," he said.

One of the band's songs was a metal rendition of the "Sponge Bob Squarepants" theme song.

"Storm" won best overall performance, and "Children of the Muskeg" won best original song.

The new lead singer of Storm, Myra Kalbaugh, sang professionally in Asia for 23 years before she married an American and moved to Ketchikan about two years ago. She auditioned about four months ago for the part of Storm's lead singer once the former lead moved to Juneau.

"It's awesome," she said of her experience singing in Ketchikan.

"There's a lot of talent here (in Ketchikan)," said Harmila Earth, who should know: She works a karaoke machine in town.

"There are so many different things," Earth said of the festival. "That's what I like about it. The variety."

One of the more chaotic events was the Great Blueberry Ball Roll, in which hundreds of bouncy balls are released at the top of a hill and funneled down to a point in which the first, second and third place balls are marked. Tickets matching the balls are sold beforehand, and eager ticket-holders lined the street to watch the chaos.

The winner gets $1,000, second place $300, and third place $200, and all the proceeds go to the Ketchikan Youth Court, a justice program with peer sentencing for first-time juvenile offenders.

"It's the largest local fundraiser we do, and it's always as deliciously chaotic as that was," said director Glenn Brown. "The community has been great. We sell them for $10 a piece, and they're very, very supportive."

There was also a spelling bee, a trivia contest, a pie-eating contest, a blueberry dish contest, a poetry slam, a beard contest (judged by the Rainforest Roller Girls), and an instrument "petting zoo."

Seanna O'Sullivan was born and raised in Ketchikan but came back to the blueberry festival this year for the first time in years.

"For me it's like a big reunion," she said.

Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council executive director Kathleen Light said the council, which organizes the event, estimates around 8,000 people pass through the festival on its main day. Though the festival does get some cruise ship passengers, the majority are local, she said.

Zerbetz's favorite part of the festival is all the people that come out for it - current Ketchikan residents as well as those who once lived there and have left.

"You get to see a segment of the universe pass by your booth," she said. "The blueberry festival is the center of the universe for eight hours."


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