Coming to Kake in the summer? Time your visit to late July/early August so you can participate in the Dog Salmon Festival, a community celebration with great food, hilarious games, music, and dancing. It’s the biggest event of the year, and a time when the entire community comes together to celebrate the bounty of the land and sea.
The roots of the Dog Salmon Festival began in the mid-1900s, when Kake Tribal Corporation offered to hold a community barbeque whenever it had processed 1 million pounds of fish at its cold storage plant. The first year it processed several million pounds, leading to unanticipated costs for so many barbeques. Gordon Jackson was Kake Tribal CEO at the time, and the story goes that he joked that they should hold a dog salmon festival and invite all their “chums.” The joke gained traction, and the Dog Salmon Festival was born. It’s been a big draw ever since. Visitors from Sitka even come in for the day on catamarans booked out in advance just to provide transportation to the festival.
Kake Tribal Corporation still offers free hot dogs and burgers, too, but be sure to look through all the food vendors before you decide on your meal. There’s great variety, from traditional food items to halibut steaks fresh off the grill. Music and dance performances contribute to the festive feel, and the day is filled with good will and good fun.
In addition to kid races, competitions are held throughout the day that pay homage to Kake’s fishing and logging traditions. You could compete in salmon filleting, the chum toss (fill up a tote with chum fish and try to throw it 20 feet or so into the next tote), and canoe and boat races. Know how to work with timber? Try your hand at the logging choker race (race to climb up and over a massive long to bring the choker around and set it up). Or you could see how you fare in the arm wrestling competition or the greased pole climb.
Each year offers different variations on the contests, so just show up and jump right into the action. (Sometimes you might jump in quite literally, as there’s also usually a “big splash” contest off the dock!)