Alaska State Fair

I am now in the final month of my pregnancy, so that means that I have left the village and am staying ‘in town’ (Anchorage) until the big event! As much as I miss my husband, it is kind of exciting to be spending some more time in Anchorage, and exploring the surrounding area with friends!

This past weekend I went to the Alaska State Fair. I was excited to see how it compared to The Great New York State Fair, which was one of my favorite events every summer before school started up again. I haven’t been able to go in years, so I jumped at the opportunity to eat fair food and explore!

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The Alaska State Fair is held in Palmer Alaska, about 45 minutes north of Anchorage at the base of the Chugach Mountains. It was a chilly morning when we set out, bundled in coats, gloves and winter hats.

We spent three hours checking out all the fair had to offer. It wasn’t as large as the NY State Fair, but it was jam packed with great exhibits, and I didn’t even feel bad about not being able to go on the rides.

The first place we visited was a small booth selling Birch Syrup. Think maple syrup, but from birch trees. Having grown up in Central New York where I looked forward to the taps and buckets hanging from our large trees each fall, and the promise of sweet treats to come, I was immediately interested in birch syrup. It was fascinating to learn about the process from Dulce East of Kahiltna Birchworks. She took us through a tasting of the various blends from the 29 day harvest- from the spicy notes of the dark first day reserve, to the final run that was much sweeter, but still had that spice and citrus that set it apart from a traditional maple syrup. What really blew my mind was that it takes 110 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of birch syrup; compare that to the 40:1 ratio for maple! I left the booth with an 8oz bottle that set me back $17, but the promise of that spicy syrup on homemade pancakes in the coming cold months made it worth every penny.

In the farm pavilion I saw baby chicks hatching, and even got to pet some that were a few days old. There were adult chickens of all sorts, including some with fancy feathers sprouting out all around their heads that looked like something you would see on the Parisian runway.

Along with the birds there were rabbits, cows and the biggest pig I’ve ever seen- it was as big as some of the calves! I’ve also decided that tiny jumping baby goats are adorable, and someday I want to own some… I just need a yard to keep them in.

Alaska is also known for it’s large vegetables, and the fair certainly didn’t disappoint on that count. Not only could you purchase a zucchini the size of my thigh for $5, there were prize winning veggies on display as well.

Crazy big zucchini!

Crazy big zucchini!

Many people assume that the growing season in Alaska is too short, or too cold, but the long summer days and warm temperatures of June and July lend themselves to monstrous produce.

Prize winning produce

Prize winning produce

The annual cabbage weigh-off wasn’t scheduled until later, but one of the contenders was this amazing entry, weighing in at over 100 pounds. Imagine that!

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After visiting the produce pavilion, we headed on over through the booths to the craft building. I’ve always been amazed with the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the artists in this state. Alaska seems to breed people with imagination and the talent to transform simple materials into beautiful art. The building showcased not only native art, but a wide variety of crafts including quilting, crochet and knits, mixed media, photography and visual arts.

One of my favorite examples of the ingenuity of the Alaskan people came from the spinners presentation:

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This was a sample blanket made entirely with yarns spun from various dog breeds. I’ve always joked about making a blanket with our puppy’s hair, because she sheds like no one’s business, but I didn’t know that it actually was a possibility! Each square in the blanket was a different breed and pattern. They were so soft, and quite frankly, I want one! I am going to start saving our puppy’s fur from when we groom her. Now I just need to learn to spin…

My husband would have really loved the next display:

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Behold: crocheted hats complete with beards, for all of the characters featured in Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The time and effort that was put into this display is mind blowing!

What day at the Fair is complete without food? I enjoyed a huge Alaskan baked potato smothered in cheese and broccoli, and then for desert I stopped by the donut shop for mini donuts and hot cider. It was the perfect combination to cut the chill of the air.

Mini donuts and hot apple cider- Mmmm.

Mini donuts and hot apple cider- Mmmm.

Three hours after we passed through the gates, we were headed back to our car, peeling off our layers as the sun began to warm the crisp Alaskan air. I was thankful that we had arrived early though, as the parking lots had filled up and the road into town was jammed with people headed to the fair for the day. It was a great experience that left me tired- but inspired as well!

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