The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
For The LOG 

Moose Pass festival turns 36


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

In its 36th year, the Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival almost ended up lacking an essential ingredient, crucial to any Alaskan jamboree. It was a close call for Shawn McDonald, as the veteran master of the beer garden almost came up short on the required permit. However, in the nick of time the paperwork returned from Soldotna, and McDonald was saved from being forced into exile.

According to chairman McDonald, the festival this weekend will be set up along the same lines as in previous years, with the main concourse along the Seward Highway featuring vendor tents. A minor difference will be some space for vendors inside the community hall itself, thanks to the Moose Pass Volunteer Fire Company, which moved into its own building last summer.

Saturday will be the long day, starting at 11 a.m., featuring musical acts throughout the day. The annual raffle will be the main billing on Sunday followed by the festival auction, which typically lasts a couple of hours and will feature a wide variety of treasures from art to halibut cheeks to Lindquist truffles. Mike Johnson, who put together the raffle this year, says highlights will include a couple of $500 cash prizes, an IRBI knife, a McDonald work of art in bronze and Major Marine Kenai Fjords tour tickets.

The event, which was first imagined and then spearheaded by the late Jack Taylor to help cover the heating bill for the Moose Pass Community Hall, benefits the facility and community services provided by the nonprofit Moose Pass Sportsmen's Club, such as the Moose Pass Library. McDonald says the community hall will be undergoing renovations over the year following this festival, improvements helped along by proceeds from the event.

Taylor is also known for the barbecue chicken he served at the festival for many years, so much so that he gained the nickname of "Chicken Jack." McDonald says that, after years of the duty rotating between the same two residents, a new volunteer has stepped forward to manage the food concession for the carnival. Local librarian Elizabeth Holloway is bringing some new cuisine to the menu including fresh watermelon and something involving chicken, possibly even barbecued.

The design for mugs and T-shirts prized by collectors is a minimalist sketch of a moose and mountains. The moose motif is central to the event and one related event is making a comeback after its absence last year. The moose calling contest, restricted due to excessive exuberance to children, will take place in the midst of Saturday afternoon around 2 p.m.

"We had one resident who dressed up with a head of antlers, and was serious about it, and he won for several years," McDonald says. "And then one year we had a woman who entered and she won. So we couldn't have that happen. Since then, it's just been for kids, future 'moosers.'"

While not present in the very early days, McDonald recalls the humble middle years, putting together scrap lumber and old tarps to form an ad hoc pavilion. About 10 years ago the club got together and built the concession stand followed by the band stand to replace what McDonald recalls was "pretty hideous." Now with further renovation of the community hall in the offing, those dark ages are long behind the festival.

Even though Saturday will be of epic length, guaranteed to turn even the most rambunctious youngster into a sleepy kitten, the Trail Lake Lodge will continue the solstice celebration even after the doors close on the first day of the beer garden at 9 p.m. Right across Depot Street from the fairgrounds, the lodge's kitchen will be open late and Blackwater Railroad Company will carry on until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

"I'm the guy that has to shut the doors on the beer garden," McDonald says, "I had a guy from Ireland a couple of years ago who stood behind me the whole way, begging me to be a gentleman and serve him one more beer."

"Just go across the street," McDonald advised.

2014 Moose Pass SUMMER


June 21, 22 Live Entertainment


Noon Gill Hernandez

12:30 p.m. Pretty Damn Close Band

2:00 p.m. Melissa Mitchell Band

4:00 p.m. Nellie Clay

6:00 p.m. Alderbash

7:30 p.m. Full Tilt


Noon Elite 9


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