Walter the winner

The 2019 cabbage weigh off winner, Walter Chastain, poses in front of his 77.5 pound cabbage.

WASILLA — Alaska State Fair’s alternative event, Harvest Fest is moving forward as planned this weekend, opening to the public Friday at noon.

“We closely monitor the pandemic situation, and we make adjustments as needed; but right now, it looks like we’re having the event with precautions and steps in place so we can have a safe experience,” Alaska State Fair CEO Jerome Hertel said.

The maximum capacity for the Harvest Fest is going to be around 2,000 people, according to Hertel. He said it’s part of their ongoing going efforts to safely host smaller events that carry on fair traditions of the Alaska State Fair while minimizing health risks. He noted there will be numerous hand sanitation united across the grounds in addition to touchless pay options.

Harvest Fest will include some of the popular events and exhibits people expect each year, including the giant cabbage and pumpkin exhibits, tractor displays, and the Junior Livestock Auction benefiting children and teens in the 4-H program. There will also be several agriculturally inspired games competitions like the scarecrow and goat milking contests and working dog demonstrations.

The giant pumpkin and cabbage weigh-offs are still happening this year, but there will not be a public weighing. Fair officials will livestream the final weigh-ins, and all of the giant cabbages, pumpkins and other sizable vegetables can be viewed on display along other exhibits throughout Harvest Fest.

“It’s an event celebrating our agricultural roots,” Hertel said.

Around 80 vendors are participating in Harvest Fest, according to Hertel.

“It allows people to still have a taste of the fair and do it safely,” Hertel said.

Hertel said they’re planning to bring back their pop-up drive-in movie showings this fall and they also plan to host the Bright up the Night holiday light display from November to January. He said people can still expect even more ideas down the road as they continue to creatively come up with ways to offset their losses and prepare for next year.

Local musicians like Ken Peltier and the Jerry Wessling Band will take to the Borealis Theatre during Harvest Fest, with acts lined up throughout the weekend. Visit the Alaska State Fair website for a full schedule of events and performances.

Admission is $6 per person, and children 5 are admitted for free. Parking is free. Tickets must be purchased online or by phone prior to the event.

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 is asked to remain home and visitors are strongly encouraged to wear masks.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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