Crab Festival adapts and prepares to improvise

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced some big changes on the Kodiak Crab Festival, starting with its postponement in May.

The Kodiak Chamber of Commerce says the community can still look forward to five days of food and fun, starting on August 19th – but expect a very different kind of festival with a mix of offerings streamed from the Web and some events to be held in person.

The Crab Festival has traditional been a people magnet, drawing thousands of people. Photo courtesy of Fred O’Hearn

“Crab fest is a food festival,” said Sarah Phillips, the Chamber’s executive director. “How do you hold a food festival virtually?”

Phillips says one solution, to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, might be to scatter the food concessions across town, rather than concentrate people in the midway. Other vendors may have to pitch their products online.

“Any of our people selling products have the opportunity to do product demonstrations, to do videos on how they make items and really give the story behind the product,” Phillips said. “We’re excited to be able to offer this worldwide.”

Phillips says the revamped Crab Festival may potentially give it more exposure than it has ever had before.

The owner of the Frame Shop, Sara Culbertson, says the Crab Festival accounts for a big chunk of her sales of local art every year. She hopes this August’s hybrid version will help recapture some of the lost revenue,

“As an entrepreneur, if you’re not willing to give something a try, you’re not going to last,” Culbertson said. “I am always excited by a new challenge.”

She acknowledges it won’t be easy, but says at this point it’s hard to know exactly what the challenges will be.

The Chamber hopes to help merchants prepare by offering them training on how to use social media to promote their products, which could hae lasting benefits beyond the pandemic.

Kids, though, will probably be disappointed to learn that there won’t be any carnival rides at this year’s festival. However, the Chamber hopes to stream games and other activities on the Web.

Phillips hopes these adaptations will help prevent the spread of Covid-19 yet keep the spirit of the Crab Festival alive.

“It’s really a community event with so many elements — with purchasing goods and family on the midway,” Phillips said.  “We’ve always described it like a big family reunion and how exciting it is.”

Phillips says this year’s hybrid festival is still a work in progress. The Chamber will hold a number of Zoom conferences to make plans for the festival, which must be approved by the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center.

Colorful characters on the midway, courtesy of Pancho Vallidolid


She says people in Kodiak are known for their creativity, and the revamped festival, is a chance to showcase their community’s ability to improvise and make the best of a difficult situation.




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