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Ketchikan prepares for home-grown blueberry fest

By Leila Kheiry

Ketchikan Daily News

Published: Thursday, Aug. 4 2011 6:40 p.m. MDT

Sarah Bristow holds her 3 year old daughter Aayla Bristow at the end of the pie eating contest at the Blueberry Festival on Aug. 7, 2010 in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Ketchikan Daily News, Hall Anderson, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Preparations are in full swing for Ketchikan's annual Blueberry Arts Festival, an event that has grown over the past three decades into three days of activities, including a parade, an art exhibit, a fun run, a fair — offering local art, food, games and contests — a beer tasting, a poetry slam, a dance festival and, this year, a totem raising.

Whew.

It all kicks off Friday afternoon with the Pet and Doll Parade, a short, sweet jaunt from the top of Main Street down to Mission, across to Bawden and up to the Ketchikan Public Library. Anita Maxwell of the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council said this parade gives children and their well-behaved furry and/or stuffed friends the chance to be in a parade, rather than merely watch from the sidelines.

The paraders get a police escort, she said, and treats are served at the end. In addition, Maxwell said, Community Connections Early Learning Program will hand out "passports" that offer suggestions for local places kids can go to have fun, such as art events, the library and the recreation center. Kids get stamps on their passports when they visit places on the list, and children under 5 can qualify for a prize, Maxwell said.

Next up is the Blueberry Dish Contest at the arts council's Main Street Gallery. Everyone can enter their favorite blueberry-based treat for the contest, which Maxwell said will be judged by local restaurateurs.

Maxwell said there are "several serious contestants who have been practicing and perfecting their dishes for the past month," and they keep coming in to the arts council to report on their progress.

"They don't bring samples," she said. "They just come in and tell us about them."

Maxwell said the open-call Blueberry exhibit is one of her favorites.

"It is such an eclectic mix," she said, adding that many artists who often don't show their work otherwise will submit pieces for the Blueberry show. "It's always fun to see the fabulous talents of the ... quiet artists of Ketchikan."

Closing out Friday's activities is opening night of the annual Gigglefeet Dance Festival, an event that showcases a variety of dances and dancers.

KTB Artistic Director Elizabeth Long gave a rundown of the dances, which will include a large group dancing in the energetic Indian-inspired bhangra style, Scottish highland dancing, the Ketchikan High? School Drill Team, several groups of KTB dancers, some of whom designed their own choreography, and at least two KTB instructors — Long and Elizabeth Schafer — who will join their students on stage.

In what's becoming an annual tradition, Miguel Torres and his children will return to the Gigglefeet stage in two pieces, Long said. One is "magic-inspired" and the other is being kept under wraps until opening night.

Long said different dance groups have been in the KTB studio every night rehearsing.

"It's going to be an exquisite show," she said.

More sluggish fairgoers can sleep in a little longer. The first contest starts at 9:30 a.m. when Boyd Porter of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will weigh contestants for the Big Slug Contest. Trainers can take their oversized arthropods to the Methodist Church parking lot to line up at the scales.

Porter also will run the ever-popular Slug Race starting at 10:30 a.m. at the church parking lot. The race typically lasts between 15 minutes and an hour, depending on how zippy the slugs feel that day. In addition to the usual prize of a Blueberry Arts Festival T-shirt, local artist Rayana White has donated stuffed plush slugs for the winning slug trainers to take home, Maxwell said.

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