Editor's Note: This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Kate Huber's name.
The fight against the Pebble Partnership and its plans to mine precious metals around and under the salmon rivers above Bristol Bay included Hula Hoops, all-night jam sessions and ironically named treats – all centered on the fairgrounds at Ninilchik.
The third annual Salmonstock kicked off a three-days of music Friday at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds with a mixture of country rocks, roots music and jam bands, such as Great American Taxi and Moonalice.
Hulahoopers and barefooted dancers celebrated the cause of wild salmon runs in perpetuity at the Ocean Stage under a watchful mural depicting the balance of the male and female form nested around a Fender guitar between the archetypal red and dog salmon.
Acknowledging that while neighbors are still adjusting to the festival in their midst Salmonstock is beginning to gel as a festival, Anders Gustafson, a sport fishing guide on the Kvichak River, executive director of Renewable Resources Foundation and festival founder, said he hopes that some local businesses benefit from the gathering.
By 3 p.m. Friday 659 of the 2,500 pre-sold ticket holders were parked at the festival and in the gate listening to three stages of music and eating festival food bearing names such as “Heady Cake and Bake,” “Stony River Grilled Cheese.”
For night owls, all-night jams were held indoors to keep the sound from traveling into neighboring properties.
One of the early musical crescendos came with the closing of the Friday evening set of the Seth Freeman Band’s full-force delivery of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” to a crowd raising the dust with their dance.
One telling Alaskan-sign separated Salmonstock from any of the festivals on the summer tour circuit Down South – Xtratufs intermingled with Chaco sandals on the dance floor and in nearby Hacky Sack circles.
Though Pebble is the ultimate target of the non-profit behind the music festival, there was scant evidence of the fight beyond the casual appearance of the by-now classic anti-Pebble sticker, which was mimicked on a few pennant flags and sweatshirts.
“It’s why I started this,” Gustafson, a Homer resident that fishes the rivers of Bristol Bay. “They said that they would have a hole in the ground by now.”
Gustafson said that his organization has the mining company tied up and there is still no mining activity as the festival enters its third year gaining on the ultimate goal of funding the long-term fight against Pebble with proceeds.
Even at less-than-breaking-even, Gustafson said his group’s mission is accomplished through the awareness raised on the anti-pebble mine side along with the social togetherness brought about by attending the festival.
“It’s raising awareness in the population,” Gustafson said. “Particularly the Pebble mine.”
The musical line up is largely put together by Jim Sterns and Jeff Able. Gustafson said Sterns brings 40 years of festival experience to Salmonstock.
Returning for a third year was Great American Taxi, known for its long jams sessions and vocal opposition to the Pebble Mine.
“They’ve become the Salmonstock house band,” said Kate Huber, communications manager for the festival.
Following Moonalice’s Friday musical set, the band handed out custom posters designed and printed for that specific set. Saturday’s performance by the band got its own fresh poster.
If long travel days, inconvenience in location and amenities and performing for half your normal pay is your deal, then Salmonstock is the festival for you, Gustafson said of efforts to build the musical line up in Ninilchik.
“Many bands come to us,” Gustafson said. Those are the ones that want to help with the cause, he said.
Third go and the smallish festival is beginning to figure itself out as a “family” affair.
“We’re starting the salmon party,” Gustafson said. “You’ve got Republicans and Democrats and now the Salmon Party.”
Reach Greg Skinner at Greg.firstname.lastname@example.org