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Jewel headlining Salmonfest

Salmonfest Alaska

The annual Salmonfest in Ninilchik, just over a week away, promises to be the biggest ever, with a fourth stage added to entertain concert-goers during the three-days of "Fish, Love and Music." Now, for the first time, one of Homer's most nationally successful musicians will be performing.

It's been a little over 20 years since Homer's Jewel Kilcher burst on the national music scene, and though she's toured worldwide, her performances in Alaska have been few and far between. But according to Salmonfest President and Producer Jim Stearns, that will change this year.

"Well, we've been after her for a couple of years now, two or three years," he said. "We have close associations with her family here, because she grew up in Homer, and we've just been kinda working the backdoor angles for a few years and finally got it done this year."

Keeping with tradition, Stearns says Jewel will close the show Aug. 6.

"We've had five female headliners in a row now, going back to Brandy Carlille, Lucina Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, Indigo Girls and now Jewel," he said. "So we typically put the female closer on Sunday evening to wrap up the festival."

"I think she wanted to make this trip up, so we were just that lucky," said Salmonfest Vice President Sally Oberstein, agreeing the organization is fortunate to have Jewel back home and performing.

"She has connections here, obviously, so we all pulled what we could do, and she went for it."

Oberstein said the organization has 50 to 75 people on staff but the number of people it takes to put on Salmonfest is far greater, and growing.

"Yeah, we have a number of volunteer coordinators that are bringing in 300, usually 300 to 350 volunteers to help run the festival once we get going," she said.

With 70 bands on the playbill this year, a fourth stage was added to accommodate all the performers, but Stearns concedes that the Ninilchik Fairgrounds are getting pretty packed.

"Every square inch. Space is really at a premium," he said. "In fact it's becoming, we've kind of outgrown the site, so we're looking at figuring out how to expand, perhaps. The problem we have is that Alaskans a lot of times are last-minute people, so even though we sell a lot of advance tickets, we don't sell out, so then they come pouring into the gates during the weekend, so when people drive all the way down from Anchorage or Fairbanks or Valdez or wherever they come from, it's pretty hard to turn somebody away."

In addition to all the food, beverages and music there will be arts and educational outreach, and even daily children's programming.

"It's just an extravaganza, basically. It's a weekend that nobody forgets. It's very memorable," Stearns said. "If you're bored at the festival, then you're going to be bored everywhere on the planet."

Salmonfest is a production of the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society.