The 62nd Kodiak Crab Festival will feature a different format than usual this year, as health experts continue to raise concerns about large gatherings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival, already postponed to Aug. 19-23 from its usual date in late May, is now being billed by the Chamber of Commerce as a “hybrid” celebration, with food and some approved events to be offered in-person, while parties, performances and competitions will be streamed on Facebook Live.
“Locally we are required to work with the Kodiak Emergency Operations Team and are required to have approval for any event of this scale on city property,” the chamber’s executive director, Sarah Phillips, said Monday during a live video announcement on the Kodiak Crab Fest Facebook page.
“However, the proposed Crab Fest mitigation plan simply couldn’t guarantee that the local health care system wouldn’t be overwhelmed if an outbreak were to occur, so we were not approved to offer a full in-person Crab Festival.”
Although many details about the pandemic-era festival are still to be worked out, Phillips said organizers would provide opportunities for vendors to sell their Alaskan merchandise directly through Facebook Live, while entertainers would be invited to give virtual parties and live performances.
“We’ll be offering competitions that you can participate in from anywhere in the world,” she said, including “things like a virtual run generously sponsored by KANA, coloring contests, Tik-Tok dance offs and surprise giveaways.”
The availability of food, which Phillips described as “one of the most anticipated aspects” of the festival, will depend on working with the Emergency Operations Center to determine whether it is safe to offer in-person dining options.
Although many Kodiak residents are sure to be disappointed by the lack of opportunity to gather with family and friends, enjoy rides or attend live performances during the festival, Phillips pointed out some of the advantages of this year’s semi-virtual format.
“Now, you have the chance to join in the celebration no matter where you are, making Crab Festival a global event for the first time in history,” she said.
“Hosting a virtual Crab Fest also means that Crab Fest will be recorded so all our fishermen, Coasties, health care workers and other critical workers not able to attend in real time still have the opportunity to join in the fun.”
According to chamber records, the last time Crab Fest was held in August was 1964, when Kodiak was hammered by the Good Friday earthquake and tsunami earlier in the year.
Updates on plans for the event will be made to the Kodiak Crab Festival website in the coming weeks atwww.KodiakCrabFest.com.