Alaska has long been known for its traditional music and artistic roots. Today’s listeners may associate popular singers like Jewel with the northern-most state of the Union, but Alaskan music is stretches across all genres and styles. Today the state boasts intricate jazz, folk, and popular music scenes—there really is something for every type of music lover and performer in Alaska.
Whether you’re a resident or are visiting for fun, one of the most enjoyable ways to experience the music of Alaska is by attending festivals. Take a look at five of the biggest and most popular Alaskan festivals that feature music:
Since 1980, this festival has brought in all types of acts, from bluegrass performers to sculptors to healing artists. It began as a jazz festival but soon outgrew that narrow classification. The two-week festival now has over 30 performances that are open to the public, and many of them are free. There is plenty of room for amateurs, but the evening performances tend to feature big names in the arts, particularly in Alaska.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks is the festival’s host and so many of the activities are geared toward learning experiences and workshops for the public. Some of the workshops and concerts come with a fee to help fund the event, but at least half of the budget comes from government grants, donations, and business sponsorships. The 2014 Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival will run from July 13-27.
Alaska State Fair – August
Music lovers certainly have a reason to head to the annual state fair held in Palmer, Alaska in late summer. The fair has actually been taking place for longer than Alaska has been a state—the first one was held by farming colony families in 1936. Close to 300,000 people visit the 10-day event that features everything from midway games and rides to farm animals. In 2010, a 46-foot gourd was the main attraction because of its record-breaking size.
There is plenty of local and regional music on several stages throughout the fairgrounds. Big musical draws are usually part of the lineup too. In the past, popular artists like Kenny Rogers, REO Speedwagon, Emerson Drive, Boys II Men, Uncle Kracker, and One Republic have graced the big stage and sung to sold-out crowds. Though there are many mainstream musical attractions, Alaskan music is still a thriving and important part of the fair. The Alaska State Fair will be held August 21-September 1, 2014.
No matter your musical preference, the Alaskan music scene is one to check out. Have you visited any of the music festivals listed here? What would you recommend for first-timers?