Arts Council plans 44th annual Blueberry Festival

Spencer Strassburg, center, works to keep his vessel afloat with Rob Hannah, left, and Justin Pomery on Aug. 5, 2018 during the Handmade Human-Powered Blueberry Boat Race at Thomas Basin. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Ketchikan’s 44th annual Blueberry Arts Festival, produced by the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council and sponsored by Alaska Airlines, will kick off at 2 p.m. Friday with the Pet and Doll Parade that will start next to the Ketchikan Police Department on Main Street.

“The pet and doll parade is a lot of fun,” KAAHC Program Director Katy Posey said in an interview Monday in the sunny Main Street Gallery.

“It’s cute and it’s for younger kids, but truly, anybody can participate,” she added

Posey said another draw for children this year will be a bouncy house that is planned to be on site.

The Blueberry Arts Festival every year, features vendors offering crafts, artwork, edibles and activities to attendees. The vendor booths will be open this year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday.

There also will be music performances, various contests and a juried art exhibition to be enjoyed.

The Pet and Doll Parade offers families the chance to dress up their dolls and their pets and show them off in a walk from the police department, downhill to the Ketchikan Volunteer Fire Department station on Bawden Street. The department’s fire trucks will be out for viewing, the Ketchikan Public Library will be giving out books to families, and cookies will be provided by Wells Fargo Bank.

Posey said that the Community Connections Early Learning Program played a big part in helping to organize the parade, as well.

“It’s technically a really huge event, when you think of it in terms of all our support,” Posey added.

At 3 p.m., Friday, the doors will close at the Main Street Gallery for the festival’s next event: judging the entries in the “Best Blueberry Dish” contest.

From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, the Main Street Gallery will open again for the Blueberry Arts Festival exhibit, featuring the blueberry dishes freshly judged by the tasting panel.

“We had people really excited to be judges this year,” Posey said, “and we keep this roster so we rotate judges, so it’s not always the same judges.”

She added that the dish that wins the top prize will be featured at the New York Cafe for one month.

The winning pieces in the exhibit also will be identified. The exhibit each year is created through an “open call,” and is the only one at the gallery that is judged, Posey said.

“It will be all types of mediums — it’s all new, original art pieces that haven’t been shown before,” she added.

Posey said, “the art exhibit’s exciting, because I don’t know what’s going to come.”

The exhibit also will be available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 3.

Friday evening, at 7:30 p.m., the first Gigglefeet dance event will be held at the Ketchikan High School auditorium. Posey said that more than 21 different dances will be performed during the two Gigglefeet events. The second Gigglefeet performance will take place on the evening of Sunday, Aug. 4.

“There’s some really interesting stuff that’s coming,” she said.

Tickets for Gigglefeet can be purchased in person at the First City Players office on Main Street or online at

Saturday morning’s festival events will start with registration for Ketchikan Running Club race. Registration can be completed in person, in front of the police station, but according to organizer Lori Ortiz, online registration is recommended, and can be completed by visiting the website and searching for “blueberry fun run.”

The children’s one-mile run and the 5K walk will start at 9 a.m., and the 5K and 10K runs will start at 9:30 a.m.

Next will be the first of two competitions featuring slugs: one to crown the heaviest slug and one to determine the speediest slug.

Posey said that she came out of retirement as creator for her company Ketch-i-kreatures to offer “Sluggo” stuffed creatures as prizes for the “Big Slug” contest and the “Slug Race” contest.

Weigh-in for the “Big Slug” contest will start at 9:30 a.m. in the Methodist Church parking lot. Slimy competitors will line up for the slug race at 10:30 a.m., in the church lot.

Starting at 11 a.m., in the Methodist Church lot will be the pie-eating contest, with Master of Ceremonies Michelle O’Brien. The miniature blueberry pies will be made and delivered by Tatsuda’s IGA.

The “Mainstage Extravaganza” showcasing several local bands, will start at 12:30 p.m. and run to 5:30 p.m., in the church parking lot. There also will be skits performed by students enrolled in the FCP “Once Upon a Mattress” summer camp, as well as readings by authors featured in the “Ketchikan Writes” publication.

At 3 p.m., the annual “Blueberry Ball Roll” will take place. Ketchikan Youth Court members will release blue racquetballs down Main Street and the first balls to reach a net placed across the street will determine who, of the ticket-bearing contestants, will be winners of the KYC fundraiser.

The last scheduled event Saturday will be the “Blueberry Beard and Mustache” contest, held at the Mike’s Elbow Room bar on Main Street.

The beard and mustache contest will feature three categories: most artistic, wild man and people’s choice, Posey said. Leila Kheiry will head up the competition as MC.

Events on Sunday will open at 1 p.m., with the check-in for the fifth-annual “Blueberry Handmade Human-Powered Boat Race” held at Thomas Basin and sponsored by Island Air Express.

“There’s lots of great prizes for that, actually,” Posey said. “Allen Marine and Baranof Skiff Excursions donate prizes.”

The race will commence at 2 p.m., with Matt Hamilton as MC.

She added that the Silly Munchkins store also donated a remote-control building kit for the “first place youth” prize.

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the “Richard Brautigan, Dick Whittaker and Lillian Ference Memorial Trout Fishing in American Poetry Slam and Rain Quatrain” contest will be held at New York Cafe, on Stedman Street, with host Tom Fowler. The suggested theme will be “Humpy Haiku” and prizes will be offered by Parnassus Books and Soho Coho.

The second Gigglefeet dance performances will start at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, at the Kayhi auditorium.

Posey said that KAAHC staff, along with Island Recycles, will be adding a green edge to the festival this year.

“This year, we’ve asked that there be no single-use plastic or styrofoam containers,” Posey said of their requirements of vendors.

She said that Island Recycles contacted KAAHC and offered to supply receptacles and lids to enable collection of glass and aluminum containers during the festival. The recycling bins will be located near the bathrooms and dumpsters, she explained.

Island Recycles also will donate several water-bottle refill stations for the festival, Posey said. Attendees are urged to bring their own refillable water bottles to cut down on the number of disposable plastic bottles used.

Posey said there also will be some old activities that will not be offered this year, such as the softball throwing cage, but there will be new activities for families to enjoy.

This year, the KAAHC Program Development Committee will offer a community art project in the downstairs classroom area of the Main Street Gallery.

Posey described the art project as two quilts made of cardstock paper squares which festival attendees will be able to decorate with their own art, to be interconnected into paper quilts.

The themes planned, Posey said, were inspired “to help visualize what’s going on in the art community with the state budget cuts.”

One quilt’s theme will be “life without art, or what it would be like” and the second quilt’s, “what art means to me, or art in my community — art in my life,” Posey said.

“The idea is that people can have a place where it’s quiet and they can sit down, and they can escape from the chaos of the blueberry festival and do some art, and it’ll go up right away, so that everybody can see it and participate,” she explained.

Posey, who is in her first year as part of the KAAHC staff, said working on organizing the festival has been special for her. As owner of her Ketch-i-kreatures business, she was a vendor for more than five years.

“It’s neat being on this side of it,” she said. “The first part that I’m going to love the most is the exhibit, because I love seeing the art and I love what people produce and I love making it look good. I love that part.”