A berry, merry festival
By P.M. Fadden
Turnagain Arm berry yields hang harvest ready upon the branch as residents set for 2016’s Alyeska Resort Blueberry Festival.
Spanning the August 20–21 weekend, this annual homage to all things blueberry features free live performances, berry inspired treats, beverages, activities roster, massages, contests, a fun run and an enthralling, hands-free pie eating contest.
“The Blueberry Festival is a celebration of the final days of summer as well as Alaska’s lush blueberry season,” said Alyeska Resort Mountain Marketing Manager Ben Napolitano. “The festival combines live music, local arts and craft vendors, blueberry themed events as well as a beer and wine garden.”
Entering its 9th annual celebration, Blueberry Fest combines already popular valley attractions with the geography’s naturally bountiful berry harvest. Festival goers are invited to ride Mt. Alyeska’s Chair 7 for easy uphill access to prime berry picking locales. Outdoor adventure and guiding service, Ascending Path announced intentions to organize expert lead Blueberry Strolls to educate with regard to location as well as harvest while on the trail.
Hand-in-hand with any Alaskan wilderness exposure goes necessity for awareness and safety education. Representatives of the Forest Service Ranger District plan instruction on festival blueberry picking as well as Bear Aware information.
For the shopping enthusiast, retail outlets, Alyeska Mountain Sports and Glacier Gift & Gallery unveil their annual Blueberry Sidewalk Sale within Hotel Alyeska hallways.
Sunday’s six kilometer Blueberry Stomp Fun Run kicks-off the festival’s final day. Runners assemble at Arlberg Road’s ‘T’ intersection for 9 a.m. sign up before commencing 10 a.m. race action along Girdwood Nordic Loop. The fun run is expected to attract as many as fifty participants, dependent upon weather.
“Alyeska organizes the event internally each year with members of Food & Beverage, Marketing, Events, Mountain, Banquets and Hotel staff all contributing in their own way to pull it off,” Napolitano said. “It’s very much an all-hands-on-deck weekend with festival, hotel, Sitzmark, music, food and beverage, mountain as well as tram operations, and retail [representatives] all needing to be part of the weekend as a whole to make it successful.”
Resort figures estimate between forty to fifty staff directly facilitate the blueberry-based extravaganza, which draws visitor crowds ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 visitors.
“The entirety of the event is held in the hotel court yard,” Napolitano said. “The hotel definitely sees a bump in business for the weekend. Hotel occupancy, tram ridership, F&B and Sitzmark after party all see more people.”
Napolitano expects to see visitor arrivals from around the state of Alaska as well as hotel guest participation.
“The event has certainly grown over the years by increased vendor participation, larger-named musical acts, events like the Blueberry Stomp 6K Fun Run and of course the pie eating contest,” Napolitano said.
“Blueberries grow more than any other berry on the mountain, plus it’s a popular local Alaskan food that can be used for many different things,” he said. “I think people come to the festival to pick berries and also be inspired to get creative with their own blueberry themed creations.”
For more information on enjoyment or involvement in Alyeska Resort Blueberry Festival contact 907-754-2111 or visit alyeskaresort.com.