Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival Memories

In the 1980s my husband Joe and I traveled around Southcentral Alaska selling food at special summer events. We sold deep fried potato skins and Buffalo NY style hot chicken wings among other eatables. Talkeetna venues included the Moose Dropping Festival, Miner’s and Trapper’s Day and the most memorable, the annual Talkeetna Blue Grass Festival. The first year we worked the Talkeenta Blue Grass Festival was in 1984 at Sheep Creek. We served homemade corndogs out of a make-shift booth. We slept in a tent and were kept awake 24/7 by partiers, so we should have learned our lesson. But the money was good and I wanted more of it. The next year, 1985 we invested in a 20’ food trailer.

Our new food trailer, summer 1985

In August, 1985 we took our spiffy new food trailer, the “Alaskan Renaissance Café” up to Dirty Ernie’s and Rosco’s annual Talkeetna 3 day blues and bluegrass festival at Goose Creek. My brother Matt, a recent AA convert, flew up from Illinois that summer to help us. Besides local musicians such as Ken Terry (RIP), Jerry Jeff Walker was the star attraction performing “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” among others favorites.

The “Hell’s Angels” were the “official security“ and ironically some of our best customers. They ordered nachos with as many jalapeños that their money allowed.
Our food trailer was the main source of water for everyone and that was before bottled water. We also were the first aid station providing baking soda to treat an abundance of bee stings. There was a unique axe throwing contest that Joe gave a shot at on his meager mini breaks. We have not seen such a contest since. There also were no health inspectors or state troopers anywhere. I always figured the authorities felt any loss of the 400 or 500 partiers there would be a gain to Alaska. 

The way into the festival site was about a quarter mile on an old tractor trail with enough ruts to crack our waste water pipe. We fixed it temporarily. Then the first day, while Joe added grease to the deep fryer, he discovered he had failed to closed the fryer drains after the last cleaning. The trailer floor flooded in cooking oil. The cleanup was difficult since water was such a premium item. Joe stayed and cleaned while I made a 15 mile trip to Sheep Creek, then Trapper Creek to get enough small bottles of oil to refill the restaurant size fryer. What a way to start. The return home to Anchorage was just as perilous. As Joe pulled the food trailer up the hill into Eagle River he heard the clopping of hooves on the pavement. He glanced in the left truck mirror to observe a moose turn away before going between the truck and trailer.

We made money and earned every cent. The first night a customer offered to trade me some marijuana for food saying I looked like an old “hippy chick“ after mentioning he had just got out of prison. I decided at that point we had to figure out a safe place for our cash proceeds. We stored the money in the freezer department of the propane refrigerator. It worked, but when we got home to Anchorage we had to spread it all over our two story house to dry. That was the last time we ventured to do the Talkeetna Bluegrass Event. The money is long gone, but the memories remain.
The rumor is this year (August 5th-7th) is the grand finale for the annual Talkeetna Music Festival some 25 plus years since we last attended. If that is true, I’m going to miss knowing that it is there to go to, whether I go or not. And if there ever was a tee-shirt for the event I always felt it should simply state, “I survived” the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival”.

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