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The sound of an accordion floats from under a sturdy tent on the makeshift stage lit by stage lights and accented by white Christmas lights.
Same name, new game in Coffman Cove 082014 AE 1 For the CCW The sound of an accordion floats from under a sturdy tent on the makeshift stage lit by stage lights and accented by white Christmas lights.

Jeff Lund Photos

Coffman Cove's festival included seafood, yes, but also art and vendors.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Story last updated at 8/20/2014 - 8:40 pm

Same name, new game in Coffman Cove

The sound of an accordion floats from under a sturdy tent on the makeshift stage lit by stage lights and accented by white Christmas lights.

The wind, which is kicking Clarence Strait into whitecaps, blows the sheet music and causes an accidental intermission a few bars into the National Anthem. In true Alaska fashion, there is no panic. The music is secured, the song continues.

For any Southeast Alaska summer festival to be truly, authentically Alaska, rain really should be included, even if it's never invited and hardly welcome.

The rain started in Coffman Cove on Friday night and only relented a few times during the Fourth Annual By the Sea Arts & Seafood Festival, but that's what XtraTufs and rain gear are for, right?

After all, according to the mission statement, the fair was to "celebrate our marine-based lifestyle within an authentic seaside fair ... and to create a sustainable market for our Rainforest Artists and Artisans."

In 2013, more than 500 showed up to the fair, which is impressive considering Coffman Cove has only 200 year-round residents. This year's event was expected to challenge that mark even with the weather. Everything from soaps, fish prints, photography, live performances and of course art, kept a steady line of traffic heading to the eastern section of Prince of Wales Island even after the event was moved indoors on account of the weather. Not all the artists were from Coffman Cove, but how a city hosts an event says a lot about it, and the town embodies the spirit of the island - though in its own unique way.

Festival head Heather Hedges said there were a few vendor no-shows, which may have been on account of the rain and wind, but she was happy with the turnout.

There's a lot to be excited for in Coffman Cove these days.

Coffman Cove was once a tiny, logging-dependent community few people visited or happened upon by accident. Who wants to visit a town two hours away on a road so bad you still feel ill-prepared with two spare tires?

But that's changed.

The town has rebuilt itself, and its tenaciously friendly attitude was stitched throughout the festival. Coffman Cove has stayed true to its hard-working roots but isn't dependent on a single industry. Loggers live here. Fishermen live here. Small-business owners and artists live here. Craig school district employees live here and commute every morning. People now drive here just for the bacon cheese burgers at the Bait Box (I'm not the only one, right?) or for the famous oysters.

But if one industry is more important or prevalent, it's tourism.

Hedges said that with the potential return of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, Coffman Cove will become a weekend destination, not just weekend escape for residents of Prince of Wales Island.

It would probably be a stretch to say that Coffman Cove is a major player in the Southeast Alaska tourism game, but hidden gem? Absolutely. Legitimate destination? No question.


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