The Sitka Seafood Festival is probably the last thing you would expect me to attend given the strong allergic reaction I get from eating almost anything that comes from the sea. True, I give the seafood banquet, prepared by visiting celebrity chefs, a pass; but I certainly enjoy the other activities. The Seafood Festival happens largely on the Sitka Fine Arts Campus. Chuck Bovee, who worked for Sheldon Jackson College for years, said it’s been a long time since he’s seen so many people on the campus, it felt good. It does feel good. For several years the abandoned college campus was crumbling on the edge of downtown, with boarded up windows and peeling paint. Now it is a center of community activity. This summer alone it has housed the musicians from the Sitka Summer Music Festival, hosted the Sitka Fellows and the Sitka Symposium (which I attended). Thirty college students from around the country are spending the summer on campus learning about historic building restoration and are working on the old laundry building. Of course the Fine Arts Camp was in full swing this summer and the Sitka Science Center is also a hive of activity. But this weekend it was the Seafood Festival and its Highland Games (see the adjacent post.)
The festival ends up on the campus but begins at the Centennial Building Friday night with the banquet. Saturday morning the festival resumed with the Sitka Marathon. Also on Saturday morning mariners put out to sea, well to harbor, in bright blue fish totes, trying to paddle between two floats in Crescent Harbor. It looks to me like canoe paddles work better than kayak paddles. This year was a success in that none of the totes tipped over. In fact, since it was not raining none of the paddlers even got wet. This disappointed the TV cameraman who was hoping for some tip over and rescue action shots.
After the tote races the parade formed up in the parking lot and marched, rolled or drove (or floated, why do they call motorized parade road vehicles floats?) The parade included the “Puppy Guppies,” a parade of costumed obedience school students showing off their leash techniques. There were mermaids, a precision hammer drill team made up of the historic restorers from the Sheldon Jackson Campus and a team of roller derby queens on their way to sell chowder and chocolate covered bacon strips on campus.
Once on campus there were food booths, a crafts fair, music, a seafood recipe contest, lectures, mermaids and, of course, the Highland/Island Games.