The Alaska State Fair is canceled due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed the way people live globally. Events have been canceled all over the world as a result of this pandemic. Alaska is no exception, with the recent closure of one of it’s longest-running events, The Alaska State Fair.

The Alaska State Fair is canceled for the first time since World War II. Image courtesy of Melissa Keefe, Marketing & Communications Manager for the Alaska State Fair.

The Alaska State Fair has been in operation since 1936 in Palmer, Alaska and has featured attractions that have not changed in over 80 years. Giant vegetables, live music, vendors selling Alaskans goods and the celebration of Native culture are all things that people enjoy at the fair every year. The only time that the fair schedule has been disrupted was during World War II from 1942-1946. The fair resumed in 1947 and has been held every year since then, until now.

Jerome Hertel is the CEO of the Alaska State Fair. He discussed some challenges that made the fair not possible this year in an official press release.

“Production of an event the size and scope of the traditional Alaska State Fair requires extraordinary, year-round efforts of our small, hard-working staff. We need to make decisions now based on what we know today, not how we hope things will be in August,” Hertel said. “We have now reached the point that with all the conjecture surrounding mandates and recommendations for mass gatherings of this scale, it just will not be possible to deliver the same experience fairgoers have come to expect from the State’s largest celebration. Each day brings insurmountable challenges to overcome.”

Even though the Alaska State Fair is canceled this year, some alternatives will be offered that accommodate social distancing. A few activities for the whole family include: pop-up drive-in theaters, food truck fare events, virtual garden tours and an upcoming Bright Up the Night drive-through light display this holiday season.

The family-friendly pop-up drive-in will feature films on a high definition 23 foot wide and 13 foot high LED screen. Movies that will be featured include “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” “Dumbo” and “Men in Black: International.” The drive-ins also offer snacks and food from Soda Jerks, Becky’s Kettle Korn and Smokehouse BBQ. Admission is $25 per car and the maximum number of people per car is the number of passengers that are able to use a seat belt. Reservations must be made online through the Alaska State Fair Pop-Up Drive In site. The drive-ins will be held at the Alaska State Fair Fairgrounds in Palmer, Alaska. Future movie events can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Food Truck Fare will also be held at The Alaska State Fairgrounds and will be every Wednesday and Saturday from May-August. Food will be provided from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., or until sold out. Vendors such as Dally Mac and Cheese, Big Dogs and Crepes de Paris are among some that will sell fare such as hand-dipped corn dogs, halibut tacos and specialty crepes.

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The Bright Up the Night drive-through light display will feature holiday light displays that guests can enjoy from their vehicles as a drive-thru experience. More information about that event will be available in the coming months. All alternative events will have COVID-19 safety measures such as social distancing, capacity restrictions and grab and go policies for food. Specific safety measures can be found on the Alaska State Fair page for each event.

The Alaska State Fair is also famous for its showcase of colorful plants and flowers. Every year, fairgoers enjoy a floral buffet of eye-catching bulbs to enjoy. This year, some of those plants and flowers were already ordered for the fair. Because of the event cancellation, the Alaska State Fair has decided to have a Fair Plant Sale of some plants and flowers that were supposed to be featured at the fair. Anyone can come and purchase fair plants and flowers at designated locations.

Hertel is confident that the fair will resume again.

“Our goal is and always has been to produce a traditional State Fair that is the last blast of summer where all feel welcome, safe and secure. We plan to come back next year with a 2021 Alaska State Fair that is even bigger and better than ever,” Hertel said in the fair cancellation press release.

For more information about the Alaska State Fair and its alternative events this year, visit the Alaska State Fair site. For a list of closures and delays for other events in Alaska, visit KTVA 11.