Salmonfest 2022: The Fish-Themed Festival Returns

Amy Kruse, owner of an art and apparel business best known for its salmon-themed clothing, shows off a couple of her most popular clothing items for sale at Salmonfest 2022. Her colorful creations, from face masks to clothing for all ages, leggings and hoodies, are available on her website, Photo: Margaret Bauman

Sunshine beamed down on the three-day Salmonfest 2022 as bands played to a sold-out crowd of several thousand people who gathered on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula to celebrate the iconic fish and the music of 60 acts on four stages.

As the bands, many of them nationally known, played, dozens of people in front of the main stage danced and cheered on the musicians, while others in colorful salmon-themed attire and more creative outfits lay in the sun, relaxing in the ambience of the Woodstock-like event. They also enjoyed servings of fresh fish chowder and other salmon dishes at food booths.

Along with new headliners this year, including Umphrey’s McGee and Shakey Graves, were perennial favorites like The California Honeydrops, Black Water Railroad Company, Hope Social Club, the Super Saturated Sugar Strings and Rising Appalachia. The eclectic combination of music from rock to country to jazz attracted fans of all ages.

While the annual Salmonfest often has been sold out, this was the first year sold out in advance, said Jim Stearns, the event’s executive producer and a music industry veteran who once worked for The Grateful Dead. Salmonfest got its start in 2011 at Salmonstock, with a focus on protecting salmon.

Other than 2020, when the event was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Salmonfest has become a powerful force in promoting healthy habitat for Alaska’s salmon while attracting nationally known bands who also support the cause.

Stearns, who has organized a number of such events, acknowledges that a lot of ticket holders come mainly for the music rather than the cause, but said such events can’t be organized without having a cause. It is that cause, meanwhile, that continues to attract environmental groups to offer education on healthy salmon habitat, and encourages the crowd to get involved in protecting healthy fish habitat and supporting efforts to offset climate change.

For entrepreneurs like artist Amy Kruse, whose fish art is reproduced on fabric for a wide variety of clothing items, face masks and wall art, Salmonfest is the “perfect” venue for sales.

“I’ve been doing this for five years,” said Kruse, who grew up in Ninilchik and now lives in Kasilof, another Kenai Peninsula town.  Her products are also available year-round via her website, Leggings and hoodies are the most popular items, said Kruse, whose fabric is made in the U.S.

“Manufacturing in the USA is definitely more expensive than some alternative methods,” she noted, “but I am proud to support U.S. and Alaskan businesses.”