Crowds view the pie eating contest at the 2018 Blueberry Arts Festival (photo courtesy of KAAHC).

Ketchikan’s Blueberry Arts Festival has been cancelled due to health and safety concerns caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. This is the first time the event has been called off in its 45-year history.

The three-day event is held the first weekend in August.

Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council Director Kathleen Light says the decision to cancel was made after consulting with the local emergency operations center, other arts organizations, and booth holders who already registered.

“When we put all of that together it became a pretty easy decision to make, based on the booth holders, and what state arts groups are doing and nationally across the country.”

Typically, there are about 180 booths and an estimated 8,000 attendees. Light says the festival attracts vendors and visitors from throughout Alaska and the Lower 48, and is a boost for local businesses, hotels and restaurants.

People visit some of the vendor, game and food booths during the 2018 Blueberry Arts Festival (photo courtesy of KAAHC).

Though the festival has been cancelled, a few events will continue. One is a virtual beard and mustache contest.

“We will have judges, and we are going to be asking people to take pictures of their probably ‘prolific growth’ over this whole time while everybody’s been staying at home and we’ll have that information out on our Facebook page.”

Categories include “Most Artistic,” “Wild Man” and “People’s Choice.” Light says they are working on a way for people to view photos and vote online. In addition to the beard and mustache contest, the council is moving forward with the open-call Blueberry Arts Festival Art Exhibit.

“Because we feel like we can control the environment of the gallery. We can control how many people are coming in at once. We can clean. We can keep people physically distanced. And we do require face coverings at the Main Street Gallery.”

The exhibit can be viewed in person or online beginning at 2 p.m. July 31st.

Light says festival T-shirts are available for pre-order to arts council members and will go on sale to the general public July 1st. She says new this year are face coverings with the festival logo on them.  The plan for next year is to have the 45th Annual Blueberry Arts Festival Part-Deux.