The rumors (some murmured and some announced from the stage), were never definitely confirmed.  They said that this might be the last one ever.  The organizers are burned out.  Ten years is enough.  It’s sad, but I also feel grateful for having been there.  Chickenstock 2016, the tenth anniversary of “Music on Top of the World,” in Chicken, Alaska – they have got it figured out.  As music festivals go, this one was a blast, man.  So it may be for the best:  Leave the party while you’re still having fun.

What made it so great?  For a start, it’s in Chicken.  Just the name of the town (population 17) makes you smile, right?  So there were all the chicken costumes and chicken hats and marshmallow peeps being dropped from a plane; chicken puns (“flocking awesome!” and “fowl-weather gear”); chicken art; chickens laying golden eggs in this old mining town.


A flock of hens with their peeps.


Rooster Man!

The music, at least, was not chicken-themed.  A double-handful of bands played, one set each on Friday, and one set each again on Saturday in a different order.  We had bluegrass, old-time, an electric dance band with horns, a couple of singer-songwriters, a rockin’ one-man-band, and a crazy reggae/blues jam band for the wee hours.  Original tunes and local bands from Alaska or the Yukon Territory.

The weather was warm and sunny Friday, just right for sitting on the patio with a pint of beer – and absolute shit Saturday, rainy all day and into the night.  No one cared.  No one complained.  Everyone danced.  We all splashed in the mud and hula-hooped, whooped it up, and stayed up all night.  Although you could hardly tell it was night, or even what time it was at all.  The morning lasted forever.  The afternoon seemed eternal.  The sun set after midnight and rose again a couple of hours later.  Thrushes, robins, sparrows, and warblers were singing when I went to bed at 3:20.  I don’t think it was a dawn chorus. I think they never stop singing.  Maybe that’s another reason why a music festival near the Arctic Circle is so good.  The music is simply in the air, twenty-four hours a day.

The sound engineers were masters.  The music was loud, but I didn’t have to use earplugs once, and could understand all the words to the songs.  When’s the last time that happened?  The Chickenstock stage, built on two old flatbed mining trucks, was the ideal height for the crowd to dance and everyone could still see.  I never once heard, “down in front” yelled at the dancers.  Nor were we shuffled off the sides so the sitters could still sit.  Nobody staked out a claim on their seat location or got pissy about anything.  In fact, other than Lisa the Parking Nazi, there were no cops, no security, very few rules, everyone behaved themselves (as far as I could tell), and we all got along.


Dogs were allowed!  Flocking awesome!


A rare quiet moment on rainy Saturday:  Hannah Yoter plays a waltz, the sound guys cover the amps, and Sheepman dances with a very normal looking lady.


When we bought our tickets they told us, “You’ll have to see the Parking Nazi to find out about where to put your car.” I thought, “Well, that isn’t very nice…” but then when you meet Lisa you can see she’s fully embraced her role.

The only time I got in trouble, almost, was on Saturday afternoon.  I went for a walk and was checking out all the license plates to see where people had traveled from.  Ninety-five percent of the plates were from Alaska, but there were also Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Florida, Vermont, and my favorite, the Yukon Territory.  I’d never seen a Yukon license plate before, so I snapped a photo of one on a big van.  Continuing along on my walk, I headed toward Downtown Chicken, which consists of the Chicken Creek Mercantile Emporium and Liquor Store, the Chicken Creek Saloon, and the Chicken Creek Café.  A
few minutes later I heard, “Hey, um, can we talk to you for a minute?”  A couple of nice hippy boys from Dawson City were concerned I might work for the government and that they were under some kind of surveillance.  When I said, “Hell no!” they gave me a high five.  A few minutes later, after we chatted about music et cetera, I suddenly remembered — oops, yes, I do actually work for the government!  Right then, the Panty Cannon boomed and showered charred fragments of panties all over the parking lot of the Chicken Creek Saloon.

King SwardFish, a band from the Yukon, was detained at the border on Friday, so they missed their set.  They played extra long on Saturday night to make up for it.  The lead singer, who reminded me of the guy who says “inconceivable!” in The Princess Bride, was dressed in a sheep costume.  The bass player wore Santa Claus garb, and the banjo player was a bee.  They played until almost 3:30 AM.  Toward the end, I wandered back up to the Saloon to check out the scene.  The tiny bar was packed wall to wall with sweaty people, full body contact dancing.  Panties and ball caps cover every inch of the ceiling and walls; it was like stepping into a very steamy lingerie drawer.  I suppose that when they ran out of space to display new donations, that’s when they invented the Panty Cannon.  The human aromas were rich, to say the least.  A large, drunk man saw me hesitate at the fringe and said, “You’ll be alright,” and pushed me into the crowd.  The Barcelona Boys Choir was blasting away at full throttle, trumpet and trombone swinging.  I danced for a bit.  Fifteen seconds was enough for me.  Then I ran back to my tent, breathing deep gulps of the Alaska air.

Harmonica Mike lives at 1401 Alaska Highway, 22 miles south of Delta.  You should stop by and visit.  He says, “I’m always ready to party.”  Tell him you met him at Chickenstock.

yukon plate.jpg

The Yukon license plate.  Its appearance has been altered, in order to protect the innocent.

This entry was posted in Alaska, Birds, Canada, Culture, Music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Chickenstock!

  1. Nancy Crowe says:

    Hey Cindy, I recommended your post to my book club yesterday. I told them that you wrote lovely descriptive articles about about nature and Alaska. Holy chickens!!! Sounds like you had a really good time and experienced another facet of Alaskan life. Love, Aunt Nancy

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Roxx Hunter says:

    That was a really fun weekend. Shame it was raining so much. Thanks for the awesome article. Signed the bass playing Santa, and friend of the Sheep (Graze a little hell)…
    Roxx Hunter


  3. Rick Sward says:

    Sheepman wants to play Chicken this summer 2017…. Best festival ever!!!!


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