Salmon Jam — a six-day festival featuring concerts, crafting and athletics — seems uniquely unsuited for the coronavirus pandemic. As the intended date of the July 13-18 event approached, some organizers expected it would be canceled altogether. Others crossed their fingers and hoped that, come July, large public gatherings would again be regarded as safe.
“With COVID, things change rapidly, daily — hourly, even,” said Kate Morse, program director for the Copper River Watershed Project. “Trying to find our own points to plan around, without having the target keep moving too much… It’s been a healthy exercise of our creative muscles, if you will.”
Earlier this month, organizers unveiled plans for “Jammin’ SalmONLINE,” a version of the festival that will use technology to keep participants a safe distance from one another, but without reducing the event to a passive, online-only experience.
Salmon Jam’s competitive running events will be carried out with participants racing on their own schedules and then logging their times online for comparison. A Saturday, July 18 running event will also allow runners to compete in salmon-themed costumes. Prince William Sound Science Center will coordinate a series of outdoor educational activities for “small fry” at installations around town. These will include an educational game about the salmon life cycle tentatively planned to be held at the Mt. Eccles Elementary School playground. Families won’t need to bring any materials to participate, said Lauren Bien, PWSSC education director.
Virtual content will include a video produced by PWSSC on how to make fish prints, an art form originating in Japan in which the shape of a fish is transferred onto paper or cloth. In general, events have been designed so that families will be able to participate on their own schedule, Morse said.
“Salmon Jam is all about getting moved by the music and inspired by art — we’re trying to generate that same energy in the way that the community looks forward to every summer,” Morse said. “If we can’t do it as business as usual, we still feel strongly about trying to bring some of that positive, upbeat energy in ways that are safe.”
The whimsical “Cordova Rocks” event will encourage community members to hide painted rocks around town for others to seek out and then re-hide.
Musical entertainment will be delivered via the “Salmon Stream,” broadcasting pre-recorded performances online. The program, which is still under development, will include Lateral Lines, an Anchorage band whose style ranges from expansive rock to honky-tonk, as well as local acts and other performers familiar from past Salmon Jams.
Merchandise from the event will be available from Redbubble, a site that allows artists to sell items decorated with their designs. Salmon Jam’s Redbubble store offers everything from the traditional T-shirts to leggings, smartphone cases and facemasks emblazoned with the image of a mask-wearing salmon and a pair of Xtratuf boots.
Festival organizers confirmed Wednesday, June 17 that the city had okayed the festival’s traditional dumpster-painting activity to go ahead. Instead of decorating dumpsters at Ski Hill, dumpsters will be set up in different locations around town, to be painted over the course of the festival week. Organizers are currently on the lookout for artists interested in beautifying Cordova’s dumpsters, Morse said.