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6/17/2017
Grizzly beards, handmade boats sought for Blueberry Fest
Maddie Eldridge, right, judges a man's beard Aug. 6, 2016, during the beard and mustache competition as part of the Blueberry Arts Festival. Staff photo by Taylor Balkom


By JOHN LEE McLAUGHLIN
Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council is calling all mustachios and beards, and for those looking to sharpen their seafaring skills, the nonprofit is also keen for some handmade human-powered boats.

Atop prizes like a commemorative razor or duct tape, the finest entries will garner local bragging rights of the 2017 Blueberry Arts Festival.

The festivities kick off on Aug. 4 in Ketchikan with the Blueberry Pet and Doll Parade; the opening of the festival's all-ages, all-media exhibit at the Main Street Gallery; and the first offering of the collaborative 19th annual Gigglefeet Dance Festival.

Then, the Blueberry Beard and Mustache Contest, held at Mike's Elbow Room, is set among a slurry of other festival happenings slated throughout Aug. 5.

Judged by volunteers, the hairy contest offers awards for best artistic presentation, “wild man” and people's choice. And gender need not apply, according to KAAHC Executive Director Kathleen Light.

“It's sort of a novel contest in Ketchikan, so we get a variety of glorious beards, and then there's also the random homemade beard,” said Light, who noted that the contest has been part of the festival since 2010.

“It is not gender-specific,” she said. “Anyone can enter, so we've had a variety of genders having beards. It can be pretty much anything.”

As for the handmade human-powered boats, the KAAHC is looking also for original raft-style vessels and boaters for the third annual Handmade Human-Powered Blueberry Boat Race, scheduled this year for Aug. 6 in the waters of Thomas Basin.

“And we do change up (the course) each year,” Light noted, “so we try to keep it interesting for people.”

Featured claims to fame for the race include awards for the most creative boat, the fastest youth- and adult-entered vessels, and a special prize for the rig that seems most likely to sink.

Last year's most-likely-to-sink winner, Light said, actually did sink, leaving some soggy shoes to fill.

Hence, personal flotation devices, a whistle, and docking and towing lines are required of each raft, among other safety requirements and race rules.

And as the race name implies, entered boats must be made by hand and powered only by humans. Simply masking a canoe or kayak, inner-tube or surfboard doesn't count, Light said.

One helpful hint, she said: “The current does play a role in the success or demise of the more risky vessels.”

For the willing, check-ins for the race will be held from 1:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 6, with the race set to officially start at 2 p.m.

A second offering of the 19th annual Gigglefeet Dance Festival — a collaboration of the Ketchikan Theatre Ballet, First City Players and the KAAHC, held at Ketchikan High School auditorium — closes out the festival.

A full list of events, contest registrations and rules are available at ketchikanarts.org/events-programs. Contact the KAAHC for more information.