Get ready to rock at Salmon Jam

BY Alyssa Kleissler For The Cordova Times

The time is rapidly approaching. The height of Cordova’s summer. The time our family looks forward to every year. The time to celebrate our community’s heritage, culture and artistic vibrancy. It’s time for the Salmon Jam, part of the Copper River WILD! Salmon Festival happening on the ski hill (Mt Eyak Ski Area) 6 p.m. to midnight on July 15 and 16.

My daughters wish it were longer than two days.

What began in Orca Cannery over 15 years ago has developed into such a magnificent orchestration of our beloved town’s volunteers, organizations and businesses. Cordova’s own arts council, Cordova Arts & Pageants, Alaska’s oldest existing arts council, together with Alaska Airlines is present the music festival. The Salmon Jam Music Festival is Cordova Arts & Pageants’ primary fundraising event. One-hundred percent of funds go directly towards bringing professional artists in from around the world, who share their art communitywide year-round.

These artists and performances enrich our lives in countless ways, especially in the dark days of winter.

Every year the festival is unique. Local and traveling musicians and artists continually differ and evolve all to gather in celebrating this town’s bread and butter — our delicious, succulent, and divine Copper River Salmon. Some local acts have grown up on the Salmon Jam stage.

This year’s local musicians include Malani O’Toole, Enrique Zamudio, Jason Dadulla, Theo “FySH” Houck, Linda Crider and Chris Corrao. More musicians and fisher poets from afar are making their way to the stage this year as well.

This year’s festival’s headliner bands are Bobby Walker & the Roadsters, playing Friday night and Big Fat Buddha, headlining Saturday night. Many Cordovans fondly remember the days when Bobby Walker would play the Alaskan what felt like all summer long.

To those unfamiliar with Bobby’s music, you’ll hear some infectious blues and rock’ n’ roll keeping you out of your seat and on the dance floor. Bobby Walker will also lead a FREE musician’s workshop at 2 p.m. July 16 on the ski hill. Bobby is traveling with Sean Allen on guitar, Willy Jordan Jr. on the drums, and Ira Sellers on bass.

Saturday night’s headliners are Big Fat Buddha hailing from Anchorage. Big Fat Buddha offers music in flavors that satisfy rock, funk, soul, and even bluegrass aficionados. Dwelling on the funk rock vibe, singer/guitarist Matt Brenna, Bassist Brad Fidel, Drummer Matt “Slodo”Slodowy, and Percussionist Jeff Arms provide fans with hours-long live shows that leave crowds thoroughly satisfied and exhausted.

Special performances by Aloha Bluegrass, Friday night and Forward Momentum, Saturday night, will warm up the stage before the headliners rock it at 10 p.m. each night.

Denali Brewing Company is bringing a full palette of their brews to our beer garden including Single Engine Red, Twister Creek IPA, Agave Gold and C Stout. Wine aficionados can select between a Malbec, a Pinot Noir, a Pinot Grigio, and a Chardonnay — all Bota Box wines. Local chefs highlight the snack shack with Brian Wildrick of Harborside Pizza preparing his delicious version of French Bread Pizza and mac and cheese; Ben Landaluce is cooking up some of his savory salmon chowder and broccoli salad. Festival goers may also enjoy Marty Koker’s halibut chowder and Brad Reynold’s salmon chowder.

Rounding out the festival atmosphere are the local and visiting artists bringing their original products ranging from pottery, handcrafted herbal remedies, photography and fantasy hair adornments. And the raffle this year is amazing. Prizes include two round trip Alaska Airlines tickets, system wide, two round-trip Cordova to Anchorage Ravn Alaska tickes, two seats with Riverside Inn to Child’s Glacier, and even one kayak, paddle and a PFD. Purchase your tickets at the Copper River Watershed Project.

If you’ve never been to the Salmon Jam Music Festival, I highly suggest you make it this year. It is going to be a fabulous show and an overall uplifting celebration of what our community holds dear in its heart — our salmon. Invite a friend!

Travel to the festival is made easier with the festival shuttle leaving from downtown, as well as through a special discount code with Alaska Airlines: ECMJ126. You can save time at the gate and get your wrist band early by purchasing your tickets online at: or Wrist bands must be picked up at the Chamber no later than July 14.

On behalf of the Cordova Arts & Pageants board, I thank you in advance for attending this event and supporting the arts in Cordova! I also thank all the businesses and partners who help to make this festival such a family friendly, fun event. I hope to see you 6 p.m. July 15 for the kick off with the Taste of Cordova (included in your Salmon Jam entry). Yum. I can smell and taste it now.