Jim Hoff (Shaa Tlein) dances with Yees Koo.oo at the Juneau Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Jim Hoff (Shaa Tlein) dances with Yees Koo.oo at the Juneau Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Maritime Festival celebrates Juneau’s connection to the ocean

Fears over ferries present at event

A collective “ooh” arose from a small crowd at Saturday’s Maritime Festival when Mike Eberhardt pulled out his Ulu knife.

Eberhardt has heard about the salmon filleting competition at the annual festival for years, but hadn’t participated until Saturday. He eschewed the fillet knives that festival organizers have available, instead choosing to use the traditional knife.

He stood across the table from Kaneisi Leha, who had long watched her family members fillet salmon but hadn’t done it herself before Saturday. The two carved into their salmon as a crowd watched closely, murmuring about each one’s approach and success.

Mike Eberhardt fillets a salmon at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Mike Eberhardt fillets a salmon at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Leha finished first, putting her knife down and her hands up as a few cheers arose. Eberhardt took his time, saying afterward that he cares more about the quality of the fillet than the speed.

“I’ve always said, ‘Oh I need to come down and do this,’” Eberhardt said, “even though I know I’m not going to be the fastest.”

The contest has become a mainstay at the festival, which has been an annual event for 10 years now. The event included dancing, musical performances, a staged helicopter rescue from the U.S. Coast Guard, regular mini-cruises and more.

The event, organized by the Juneau Economic Development Council (JEDC), is a celebration of Juneau’s various maritime industries and organizations. There was a bit of a new wrinkle this year, as members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union were there advocating for the importance of the Alaska Marine Highway System in the wake of massive proposed budget cuts to the system.

Anthony Distefano, a union steward for the Inlandboatmen’s Union, talks to attendees at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Anthony Distefano, a union steward for the Inlandboatmen’s Union, talks to attendees at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Anthony Distefano, a union steward for IBU, manned a tent where people could pose for photos and sign a letter to the Legislature demanding better funding for the ferry system. IBU members were also telling people about their upcoming rally at noon Tuesday on the Capitol steps.

“People are just bewildered by why this is even happening in the first place,” Distefano said. “Mostly what I hear from people is (the Legislature) needs to save the system and fully fund the ferries.”

The Maritime Festival has more than doubled in size since the first one a decade ago, from around 20 vendors to 47, JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst said. People streamed in for the full six-hour event despite the cloudy, drizzly day.

Mike Eberhardt fillets a salmon at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Mike Eberhardt fillets a salmon at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Attendees had the docks to themselves Saturday, without a cruise ship docked nearby. Holst said that wasn’t a coincidence.

“We still work very hard to do it on a day when there are no large vessels in town so that this is really directed towards Juneau celebrating something important about Juneau,” Holst said.

Leha was one of those locals, making her way to the festival for the first time. She stood near the salmon filleting competition, watching her daughter bounce from tent to tent.

“I love it,” Leha said. “I have my 7-year-old here with me and she’s out there collecting all the free stuff that she can get. It’s an awesome thing.”

Kaneisi Leha fillets a salmon at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Kaneisi Leha fillets a salmon at the Maritime Festival on Saturday, May 4, 2019. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

A sign on a city bus urges the use of face coverings, but following an ordinance passed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, all passengers will now be required to wear masks on buses and while using other city facilities. Friday, May 29, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)
Face coverings now required on buses, in city facilities

Masks will be provided for those who cannot afford them.

Juneau City Hall on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)
Finance committee votes to hold line on property tax

“Projects will still go on. Services will still go on.”

Police calls for Friday, May 29, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Police calls for Thursday, May 28, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Police calls for Wednesday, May 27, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire 
                                Henry Williams runs from Douglas to the Mendenhall Valley on Memorial Day to honor dead service members, including his relative, Air Force Tech Sgt. Leslie Dominic Williams, who died in Afghanistan in 2011.
Memorial Day passes quietly amid coronavirus concerns, damp weather

People found their own ways to honor the hallowed dead.

Archie (center), Ella (left) and Arrow (right) enjoy the dog-friendly Field 2 in Melvin Park on April 26, 2020. The field, Dimond Park, and the grassy area on top of Gold Street are all closed to dogs indefinitely due to a rising amount of unremoved dog poop. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)
Poop piles pose problem for parks

Three areas are closed, and more may follow if behavior does not improve.

Most Read