The Alaska State Fair is one of the biggest events in a state that does everything big. For the two-week stretch ending on Labor Day, the community of Palmer draws locals and people for a combination agricultural celebration and music festival. It's one of the most exciting things to do in Alaska when August arrives.
Alaska State Fair History and Facts
Alaska Fair Image: MegaBuddy (flickr)
Music fans know the state fair as one of the best places to catch a concert. The AT&T Borelais Concert Series brings some of the biggest names in music to little Palmer Alaska, and the Alaska State Fair 2016 concerts are sure to carry on this tradition. The open-air Borealis Theatre is one of the biggest and coolest places in the state to enjoy live music around the Labor Day holiday.
The fair has come a long way since the first event in 1936, and each new fair is a nod to this history. Just a year before, down-on-their-luck families made the trek to the the Mat-Su Valley to find a new life in this New Deal community. The region quickly became Alaska's breadbasket, so it was only natural to pick Palmer as the site of the Alaska State Fair. This region, known for its cabbages that grow up to 90 pounds and monster turnips, produces 75 percent of Alaska's agricultural bounty. The twenty hours of sunshine in the summertime certainly doesn't hurt.
All throughout the year, the community of Palmer celebrates its agricultural roots. The Colony House Museum preserves an original 1930s farmhouse, while the Matanuska Valley Agricultural Showcase is the place to see some giant veggies. During fair season, these attractions and everywhere else springs into high gear for two weeks' worth of community pride, fun, and Alaska State Fair concerts.
Tickets to the Alaska State Fair
Anyone planning to visit the Alaska State Fair 2016 will need a ticket to enter the fairgrounds. Discounts are available for weekday visits, with additional savings for kids age 6 to 12 and seniors over the age of 65. Kids under the age of 5 can enter for free any time during the festival.
If you're planning to catch one of the Alaska State Fair concerts, you'll need to purchase tickets for the show and pay gate admission. Anyone under the age of two are welcome to enjoy the concerts for free. Tickets also are needed for some of the grand stand events and the rodeos.
Directions to the Alaska State Fair
The fairgrounds are located in Palmer, an hour north of Anchorage via the Glenn Highway. If you don't feel like driving, you could hop aboard the train in Anchorage—the round-trip package includes admission to the fair and is one of the coolest Anchorage day trips. The trains run on both weekends of the fair, including Friday. The Valley Mover Bus adds more trips during fair time on its Anchorage to Wasilla routes.
Once you get to the Alaska State Fair, you'll find three large parking lots and three different entry gates. Parking also is available for RVs and motorcycles. The train heads right to the fourth gate, which also serves as the drop-off zone for convenient access.
Lodging Near the Alaska State Fair
Tent camping is allowed at the fairgrounds, and the daily permits for RV parking are good until 9 a.m. the next morning. If you'd prefer to stay in more spacious accommodations, you have a choice of hotels, motels, and lodging in and around the Mat-Su Valley and Anchorage.
If you have tickets to one of the Alaska State Fair concerts that goes late, you'll appreciate a short trip to nearby accommodations. The Peak Inn, on 775 West Evergreen Avenue in Palmer, is close to the fairgrounds and charming downtown Palmer. A bike trail crosses in front of the newly built motel, and all of the guestrooms have a microwave and refrigerator.
The Majestic Valley Wilderness Lodge, nestled along the Glenn Highway, offers a warm welcome and some amazing glacier views. Whether you choose one of the guestrooms in the main lodge or one of the cabins, you'll have plenty of space to stretch out and relax after a long day at the fair.
Image: akseabird (flickr)