PALMER — It takes booths of all kinds to make the Alaska State Fair. Part of the visitor’s enjoyment comes from the sheer variety of vendors to browse through.
Mermaid Imports and Design owner Tina Baugher busily juggled from one customer to the next, sharing laughs and stories in between. She said that she was glad to be back at the Fair after the year hiatus due to the COVID-19 cancellation.
”It’s great to see the old Fair family,” Baugher said. “A lot of fair vendors’ kids have taken over the booths... One couple came by and I said, ‘it’s so nice to see the two of you... and I go are you still running?’ and they go, ‘oh no, our daughter runs it now. She even gave us money to spend out on our break.’”
Despite the rain, Baugher was enjoying herself inside her booth placed in its usual location near the Red Gate and Colony Stage. Various clothing items, tapestries, jewelry, trinkets, and other odds and ends artfully decorated the tent interior with display items out front covered in plastic wrapping to avoid getting wet.
The 2021 season is a milestone year with an extended three-week season. Another first is the fact there are Tuesdays and Wednesdays off, giving time for sanitization efforts.
This time off is also gives vendors and Fair staff to recuperate during historically slow days, according to Baugher. She said the two days off is already proving to be an effective schedule that can help everyone in the long run, both economically and physically.
”I feel more refreshed,” Baugher said.
Jamie Janko is an experienced artist and vendor who’s traveled across the state and participated in numerous festivals. This is her first year as a vendor at the Fair, but she knows several people from past events working there and she’s making new connections with the annual pop-up community.
”We’re like neighbors. It’s definitely a survival thing. We’re here 11 hours to be functioning and open... It’s definitely like a living situation almost for a while,” Janko said.
Mat-Su Jewish Center Director, Rabbi Mendy Greenberg and fellow members of his congregation cheerfully greeted people walking by from their booth. Greenberg said this is their fourth year running a booth at the Fair, and they’re excited to be back with the opportunity to interact with so many different people, from locals to visitors from across the world.
”Today was a very nice day,” Greenberg said. “Some of them are Jewish, some of them are not... Everyone that walks in really has a great time in here,” Greenberg said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org