Slug racing is a Ketchikan tradition during the annual Blueberry Arts Festival, organized by the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

The 47th annual Blueberry Arts Festival returns to downtown Ketchikan this weekend . The three-day event celebrates all things blueberry. The festival was given its name because it coincides with the time blueberries ripen.

Arts Council program director Katy Posey says events kick off Friday, August 5, with the Pet and Doll Parade.

“We really want all of those adorable children and parents and kids and dolls and dogs to get their regalia ready and their wagons ready for that parade. That starts at 2 p.m. right in front of the police department.”

Also Friday are the Best Blueberry Dish contest, and gallery openings. The juried art show is split between two locations this year, the Main Street Gallery at 330 Main Street, and the Commons Gallery at 2106 Tongass Avenue. There will also be a lumberjack competition at The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show followed by a performance by the band Woody’s Finest Hour. Admission is by donation and proceeds benefit the Special Olympics.

In 2020, the festival was cancelled for the first time in its history due to the pandemic. Last year, the festival moved from its traditional location at the State Office Building and adjacent parking lots to the heart of downtown.

And this year, many events will remain outdoors. Arts Council executive director Kathleen Light says most activities take place Saturday downtown on Main, Dock and Mission streets which will be closed to vehicle traffic.

“All of the amazing awesome things start happening really early with running at 9 o’clock. And then the Blueberry vendor market opens at 10 a.m. There’s slug weigh in. There’s slug racing. There’s pie eating. There’s blueberry ball rolling.”

There is also a beard and mustache contest with judging at the Main Stage at the Salmon Market, which will also host music, dance and comedy performances Saturday.

Though portions of streets are closed to vehicles, handicap-accessible parking will be available near Whale Park, and a wheelchair and walker loan station will be at the St. John’s Episcopal Church Parking lot across the street.

On Sunday there’s a handmade, human-powered boat race at Thomas Basin, a poetry slam at the New York Café and the festival wraps up with the Gigglefeet Dance Festival at the Kayhi Auditorium.

Here is a link to the the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council’s website which contains complete details.  Below is a summarized list of events.



Friday, August 5th

2pm – Pet, Doll and Mask Parade.  Starts at the corner of Grant and Main Streets.

3pm – Deadline to submit Best Blueberry Dish entries to the Arts Council, 330 Main Street.

5pm to 7pm – Opening reception for the Blueberry Arts Festival Juried Art Show, at the Main Street Gallery and The Commons Gallery.

7pm – The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show competition followed by a performance by Woody’s Finest Hour. Entrance is by donation, $5 minimum. All proceeds benefit Special Olympics.

5pm to 8pm – In-person registration and bib and shirt pick up for the Blueberry Festival Run/Walk at the Gateway Recreation Center. There will be no in-person registration or packet pickups on Saturday.

Saturday, August 6th

9:00am – The Blueberry Fun Run/Walk.  Kids 1 miles starts at 9 a.m., the 5K at 9:30 a.m. and the 10K at 9:45 a.m.  Runs start and end at Bawden Street Brewing Company.

9:30am – Big Slug Weigh in on the Blueberry Mainstage.

10am to 5pm – Arts, Food and Game Booths are open along with the Main Street Gallery.

10am – 11am – Wind-up airplane distance contest for kids at Alaska Airlines booth.

10:30am – Slug Races on the Mainstage.

11:30am – Pie Eating Contest on the Mainstage.  All ages welcome.

12pm to 5pm – Music and performances on the Mainstage. A variety of local talent will perform.

2pm – The Beard and Mustache Contest on the Mainstage.

3pm – The Great Blueberry Ball Roll begins at the corner of Pioneer Alley and Main Street.

Sunday, August 7th

1pm to 1:45pm – Check-in for the Handmade Blueberry Boat Race (Thomas Basin)

2pm – The Blueberry Handmade, Human-Powered Boat Race begins (Thomas Basin)

3:30pm to 5pm – The Blueberry Arts Festival Poetry Slam at the New York Café.

7pm – Doors open at the Kayhi Auditorium for the Gigglefeet Dance Festival. The show starts at 7:30pm.