Ann Volk (left) and Barb Fish harvest on the muskeg in a past Rain Forest Festival field trip. (Photo courtesy of the Rain Forest Festival)

The 12th Annual Rain Forest Festival is happening this week in Petersburg despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Volunteer organizers of the yearly event have created several outdoor activities alongside virtual talks with science experts. In the first of a three-part series on the festival, KFSK’s Angela Denning looks at how organizers approached the event this year and what will be happening outdoors.

Normally, the Rain Forest Festival brings people together for science talks, art workshops, or exploring the local landscape in groups. However, this year organizers have approached the event differently because of the risk of transmitting Covid-19 by asymptomatic people.

One of the event organizers, Chris Weiss, says this year will look very different.

“We will have many things done by Zoom but we didn’t want to over-Zoom things so we’re also having events and scheduling things for people to do outside,” she said.

Some of the outdoor events include a scavenger hunt, an interpretive map, an art show, and a family challenge event. Over Zoom, there will be lectures, workshops, and art classes.

“And so it’s a mix of self-guided, self go-outside-and-do-this and the Zoom meetings,” Weiss said.

The outside events happening this year are for all ages. There are two family-oriented events that have details that won’t be revealed until the day they’re happening. They include a “Skog Spirit” challenge, which will be revealed Thursday morning on the festival’s web page. The Totally Nautical Scavenger Hunt will be revealed Friday morning. People can also pick up paper instructions at the library starting the day of the event or at the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Office downtown.

Starting Friday, there will be a self-guided field trip following a Raven’s Trail Interpretive Map created by local artist, Lisa Schramek Adams. Weiss says the map will help people locate features in a muskeg.

“So that people can go up the Raven Trail and find out about muskegs,” Weiss said.

Families participate in a bug walk during a past Rain Forest Festival. (Photo courtesy of the Rain Forest Festival)

The Ephemeral Art Show starts Friday. It is an outdoor art show, with temporary artwork created in various locations around town.

“Ephemeral art, which is art that’s made from nature and meant to return to nature with time,” said Sunny Rice, another festival organizer.

Rice says they got approval from the borough to use some public areas for the show.

“Mostly sort of the public trails and parks in town as well as along North Nordic Drive,” she said.

Another festival organizer, Christina Sargent, says the art show will include a variety of different types of local artists.

“It’s going to be a nice mix of some student and kid and family projects,” Sargent said.

Sargent says there will be weaving art, stone art, and art made from twigs and branches. She says the public can also participate in their own ephemeral art at Sandy Beach.

“There is going to be a community section at Sandy Beach where people who if they are out and about and seeing the artwork and inspired to go ahead and make their own that weekend,” Sargent said. “They’ll be kind of a spot set up at Sandy Beach where people can just make some art on the fly so that will also be fun to see how that evolves.”

The artists will be taking photos of their temporary art pieces, which will be shared through the Clausen Memorial Museum later on. The show will allow people to follow the artwork as it progresses.

Outdoor events like the art show along with virtual gatherings for lectures and science talks fill the festival’s four-day schedule.

“This is a chance for the community to come together–I’m kind of proud–instead of just canceling we figured a way around it and it’s going to be a chance for our community to gather together and celebrate the world around us,” Rice said. “I hope lots of people join in.”

The Rain Forest Festival runs Thursday through Sunday. All of the festival’s classes and workshops this year are free.


This is the first of a three-part news series on this year’s Rain Forest Festival. Thursday we will report on the virtual events that are happening and on Friday, we’ll have details on the Musical Houses event, live outdoor musical performances organized by the local arts council. The Ephemeral Art Show locations will be announced Friday morning.