Midnight Sun Festival, a cancelled staple of solstice celebrations

The 37th Midnight Sun Festival was cancelled for the first time in its history. (Photo...
The 37th Midnight Sun Festival was cancelled for the first time in its history. (Photo courtesy of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks) (KTVF)
Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 4:45 PM AKDT
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Fairbanks has a long history of celebrating the summer solstice, and for 37 years the downtown Midnight Sun Festival has drawn visitors and vendors from around the state and beyond.

This year, the festival has been cancelled for the first time in its history due to COVID-19 concerns.

Despite the closure, a few downtown stores are scheduled to host sidewalk sales including Big Ray's, Venue and Frank's Menswear.

David van den Berg, Executive Director of the Downtown Association of Fairbanks, estimates that every year up to 30,000 people come to the festival.

Along with the Midnight Sun Baseball Game and the Midnight Sun Run, the festival provides visitors and locals with a unique glimpse of Fairbanks’ unique geographic proximity to the Arctic Circle by including activities which last past midnight.

"In my twelve years of working for the downtown association, there haven't been any other significant events that I'm aware of that have really tried to compete with these three. You've got the festival, and you've got a baseball game, and you've got a run... something for everybody. I think there's people who do all three -- and I think it's part of what makes Fairbanks a destination for this time of year,” Van den Berg said.

Van den Berg noted that the festival acts as a fundraiser for the Fairbanks Downtown Association's activities throughout the year. Although he knows that the festival will be missed this year, Van den Berg said that the plan is to bring back the full festival for its 38th year in 2021.

“We believe we did the right thing in not holding the event, and not trying to postpone it and have it in some other form that wouldn’t be recognizable. We just said, ‘The festival is the festival. We’re all in or all out.’ And we decided we needed this year, at this time, to be all out,” he said.

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