Sitka Seafood Festival returns Aug. 10-19 after spending a year in hiatus

After spending a year in hiatus, the Sitka Seafood Festival returns Aug. 10-19 with a wide variety of events as Sitka celebrates its local seafood culture.

“Southeast Alaska is an amazing place, and the Sitka Seafood Festival is going to be a great opportunity to bring our community together to celebrate it,” Sitka Seafood Festival coordinator Emma Edson said. “There are a lot of great minds coming together to make it happen. It’ll be a lot of fun, and it’s all for a good cause.”

The Sitka Seafood Festival began in 2009 through the work of volunteers, and became its own nonprofit in 2012. But in 2016, organizers decided they needed to take a break.

The rekindled Sitka Seafood Festival now is sponsored by the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. The proceeds from the festival will benefit the Young Fishermen’s Initiative, which helps young Alaskans get into the fishing industry with financing for permits and boats, deck hand apprenticeships, and policy programs.

“Central to the mission of the Sitka Seafood Festival (SSF), as well as the mission of Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, is the belief that Alaska needs a vibrant and sustainable fishing industry supporting economically empowered and self-sufficient Alaska communities,” said Willow Moore, ASFT’s executive director. “Also, no one knows good seafood (and where to find it) like Alaskans. The Sitka Seafood Festival celebrates the fishing culture and heritage that local economies (and plates and palates) depend on, and the unique ecosystems of Southeast Alaska that sustain our local fish and families as they grow.”

In addition to the two host organizations, there are several partner groups hosting activities, such as ArtChange Inc., the Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, Sitka Film Society, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Sitka Local Foods Network, the Sitka Kitch, and Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

The main festival day is Saturday, Aug. 12, when there are vendor and food booths plus a variety of fun and games events at Crescent Harbor Shelter. Knot-tying games open the event at 9 a.m., followed by kids games at 10 a.m., the vendor market from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., older kids games from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a dock walk from noon to 1 p.m., tote races at 1 p.m., and the wild fishermen’s triathlon (which includes fish tote races and other obstacles) at 3 p.m.

Other highlights from this year’s event schedule include a pre-festival screening of the movie “Jaws” on Aug. 6 at the Coliseum Theater; Sitka Tells Tales hosting “Wet Feet: Stories On, In, Under, or Of the Sea” on Aug. 10 at the Beak Restaurant; seafood trivia on Aug. 11 at the Mean Queen; a lecture by Iñupiaq mask carver Erin Katherine Gingrich on Aug. 12 at the Sheldon Jackson Museum; a screening of the film “The Salmon Forest” on Aug. 14 at the Mean Queen; a class on filleting salmon on Aug. 15 at the Sitka Kitch; a class on canning salmon on Aug. 16 at the Sitka Kitch; a film screening of an ocean and fisheries documentary TBA on Aug. 17 at the Coliseum Theater; a “Coming to America: Invasive Species, Ocean Rafting, and Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris” lecture on Aug. a8 at the Sitka Sound Science Center; a walk about the docks on Aug. 19; an ocean treasures family day Aug. 19 at the Japonski Island Boat House; and a fish skin sewing class taught by Joel Isaak from Aug. 22-30 at the Sheldon Jackson Museum.

Don’t forget the Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a Sitka Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 12 at the ANB Founders Hall, and another one at the same time on Aug. 19. So make time to attend both events.

The 2017 Sitka Seafood Festival grand finale will come with the Young Fishermen’s Expo and Season’s End Banquet, taking place in early November at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

For more information about the Sitka Seafood Festival, go to http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.com, or call 747-3400.

• Scenes from the 2015 Sitka Seafood Festival events held Saturday, Aug. 8

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ssflogo2There were tote races, a parade, a marathon/half-marathon, food booths, live music, canning classes, salmon-head bobbing, halibut-head tossing, the Sitka Highland Games, and scores of other events Saturday during the sixth annual Sitka Seafood Festival at Sheldon Jackson Campus.

There also was nice weather — a little cloudy with light rain for the marathon/half-marathon, followed by warm sunny weather for the tote races, parade, and marketplace events later in the day.

A few scenes from the 2015 Sitka Seafood Festival are in a slideshow below.

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• Schedule firming up for 2015 Sitka Seafood Festival on Aug. 7-8

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ssflogo2While the official schedule for the 2015 Sitka Seafood Festival still hasn’t been posted on the event’s website at the Sheldon Jackson Campus, the schedule is firming up.

The Friday night, Aug. 7, Sitka Seafood Festival Extravaganza banquet is close to selling out, so if you haven’t gone online to reserve your tickets you better do it now. Tickets are $65 each for this special seafood dinner event (cooked by guest chefs) at Allen Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus, but there are only a handful left. This event starts at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a variety of seafood dishes prepared by guest chefs Caleb France of Indianapolis, Dave Thorne of Anchorage, Rob Kinneen of Anchorage, Jeren Schmidt of Sitka, and SSF culinary scholarship winner Adam Kanayurak. Don’t forget to get your VIP cocktail hour tickets ($35) from 5:30-6:30 p.m., too.

OK, got your banquet tickets? Here is information on the other events.

Sitka cooks can participate in the banquet by entering the dessert contest, which will feature cakes, cupcakes and pies (no refrigerated desserts, please). The desserts will be auctioned off at the banquet, and the top desserts will receive prizes. Rules and entry forms are at the link above. The entry forms must be submitted by Wednesday, Aug. 5. For more information, contact contest coordinator Megan Pasternak at 738-2290 or mwpstnk@ptialaska.net.

As usual, the bulk of the sixth annual Sitka Seafood Festival events take place on Saturday (Aug. 8, this year). The fish tote races usually start at 11 a.m. at Crescent Harbor, with the parade following afterward from Crescent Harbor to the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

The Sitka Seafood Festival Marketplace opens at noon, and this year all of the booths will be outdoors on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. The booths usually stay open until 6 p.m., but some may close earlier if they run out of product. You can find out more information about hosting a booth here.

highland gamesIn addition to the marketplace, there will be kids games on the lawn, live music and other entertainment until 5 p.m., and the Sitka Highland Games until 6 p.m. The highland games participants already are practicing their events, and potential participants can check out the Sitka Highland Games group on Facebook for practice times (usually 5-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, depending on weather and work schedules).

There will be other events announced over the next week or two, and some may happen on Thursday, Aug. 6, or Sunday, Aug. 9.

The festival also is looking for volunteers to help prior, during and after the festival. There are countless ways to help, such as kitchen help, banquet help, parade, contests, games, highland games, booths, tent set-up and take down, stage help for bands and cooking demos, etc. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Alicia Olson Haseltine at alaska_al33@hotmail.com. For more info on the festival, go to http://www.sitkaseafoodfestival.org.