The residents of Kake like to get to point B at their own pace and in their own way. On July 21, they'll do it in fish totes.
"They're square plastic insulated totes," said Sam Jackson, organizer of the Kake Dog Salmon Festival. "Two people get in them and race. ... They're real tippy so it's fun to watch."
The Dog Salmon Festival was started in 1995 to celebrate the return of the salmon and break up the monotony of the fish processing season, which lasts about two months.
"It's the main industry," Jackson said. "We have logging here but the main industry is fish harvesting and fish processing. ... (It's) a lot of long hours for the fish processing workers."
The daylong festival is packed with activities, including a community picnic and barbecue, bike, foot and children's races, fish filet contests, food and desert baking contests and Native dancing.
A highlight is the Challenge of the Chums Canoe Race, which draws teams from around Southeast.
"We came to Kake and had a lot of fun," said Juneau's Cheryl Eldemar of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, who helped organize the SEARHC team for the 2000 festival. "We competed in the canoe races and I know some of the boys competed in the tote races. We ate a lot of salmon, and we got a little wet. It was a lot of fun."
The festival is expanding this year, with visitors in catamarans traveling from Juneau and Sitka to attend - up from only one catamaran in past years. The state ferry LeConte will also arrive, reaching Kake from Juneau at 7 a.m.
"Tickets from the Sitka catamaran are probably 90-percent sold now," Jackson said. "In Juneau the sales aren't going as strong, but a number of people have reserved tickets. I estimate probably 65 percent of that one is sold out."
Arriving in Kake on the catamaran last year was a memorable experience, Eldemar said.
"When the catamaran came into Kake, the community sent out greeting canoes and they were in regalia," she said. "They greeted us arriving visitors with song and dance. It was a great way to start off."
The Dog Salmon Festival Committee, comprised primarily of staff from Kake Tribal Corporation, begins planning the festival in May. The festival requires a large combined effort, Jackson said.
"It's just a lot of personal time and a lot of personal commitment to bring the whole festival off successfully," he said.
To keep food costs down, Jackson pilots his 50-foot boat up to Juneau and buys in bulk at Costco.
"That kind of helps offset the cost of bringing the freight down," Jackson said. "I have a fishing crew that goes with me. I entice them with a trip to Juneau."
The winners of the bake-offs also receive a trip to Juneau, as well as $100. In an effort to fully incorporate guests into the festival, bake-off judges are selected from the crowd.
"We've had everything from a herring egg omelet to strawberry cheesecake," said Jackson of past contest winners. "We get some pretty good recipes in there."
Most of the Dog Salmon Festival will take place in the parking lot of the Kake Foods Fish Processing Facility.
"We have chum salmon jumping right in front of us," said Jackson. "Sometimes they almost jump into the fish totes when they're racing."
Tickets for the catamaran are $90, and can be purchased from Goldbelt Family Tribal. Ask for Roxy Allingstad.
Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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