At least 2,000 people gathered in downtown Ketchikan Saturday for day two of the 46th annual Blueberry Arts Festival. Saturday events included art and food booths, 5K and 10K runs, music on the mainstage, and a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. The state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink attended.
Hosts Joe Williams IV and Diane Slagle served as emcees and entertained between acts on the mainstage. Arts Council Executive Director Kathleen Light first greeted the audience.
“All right out there in blueberry land…we want to welcome you to the 46th annual Blueberry Arts Festival (applause). So you can come by and listen to some awesome music, see some awesome dance, have some awesome food…much blueberriness.”
“We’ve got this jar up on the front of the stage by the way that is for COV-aid. We’re helping local businesses who were hit by the COVID crisis. Donations are being accepted by the Arts Council until the 16th. It’s all going to be divided up and given to the businesses that applied for the assistance. So please fill this tip jar up for them today.”
There were over 130 food, game and art booths. This is the first year the festival was socially-distanced on downtown streets. Nancy Tietje was selling beaded jewelry and masks. She says she’s participated in about 30 festivals and liked the new venue.
“Oh it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. And I love the street fair version. It is so refreshing and I think people feel better. So I hope it keeps going like this.
Shawn McAllister is with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. McAllister says KVRS was chosen to be the benefiting non-profit for the booth Crepes Bluesette, which is the organization’s biggest annual fundraiser.
“Well, we make 15 gallons’ worth of batter and we probably sell about 700 crepes. (So how does it feel being back at the Blueberry Arts Festival?). Oh it’s super fun and the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council has done an awesome job of laying out a whole new system here. And it seems to be working great.”
Maida Kelley is a watercolor artist.
“I love being back. I love seeing all the people. You know, you forget who you miss. Here you get to see all the friends who for 19 years have been coming by. And so it’s just really nice seeing all the people who support you.
Public Health also ran a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Through funding from a state grant to provide incentives to get vaccinated, the local chamber of commerce purchased $100 gift cards from local businesses. Anyone getting vaccinated at the festival received a gift card and was also entered into hourly $100 cash prize drawings.
Ketchikan Public Health nurse Arizona Jacobs was pleased with the turnout.
(I understand you didn’t have many people signed up at the beginning?) “We did not. I think we only had 19 registrations, and then we were flooded with people who wanted vaccines. So, a very nice surprise. (Pretty steady flow?) Pretty steady flow. We haven’t really had a time for a break, we haven’t sat down, and that’s great.”
(What is your name?) Jalen Dow. (So why did you decide to come out and get your vaccine today?) Mostly because the family members I’m with have already gotten it today so I just figured I’d join the club. (And is it something that you didn’t have time to do or didn’t think about doing?) It was just more of a wait to see the results of everything else first. More studies coming out. I don’t know. I like to know a few more things when I go for a vaccine.”
Seventy-three people were vaccinated that day.
Ketchikan’s covid infections — along with the rest of the state — have been on the rise recently. Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink thought the festival was an ideal opportunity to promote vaccination and community safety.
“First of all it’s just a huge honor to be in Ketchikan. It’s been fun to watch and just inspiring to watch this community respond to this pandemic throughout the time. And then we got asked to. The community said, ‘Hey we have this great Blueberry Festival, we’re promoting vaccines. Would you be interested in coming?’ And so we said ‘Yea, we’d be honored to.’ Here we are.” (This is bringing thousands of people together. Is there concern?) That’s a great question. The fact it’s outside is really, really great to see. We’re seeing many people who are choosing to mask. We’re also seeing that many people have the opportunity to get vaccinated, which is great. You know, this has been going on a long time and we need to be able to lead our lives and be out and be out. Being social is important. Supporting businesses is important. And it’s great to see them take so many safety precautions, particularly the outside venue. And the sun happened to cooperate with us as well today. So, yea, it’s been great to be out here and great to see so many.”
Everyone vaccinated that day and those who showed proof of previous vaccination was entered into a grand prize drawing at the end of the festival. But, you had to be present to win.
“John M. Stanton. You have won $2,000. Or have you. John…going once…John is in the building! (applause/cheering)