Originally published in The Spenardian

You may have never noticed Fish Creek before, but the watershed winds its way all through the Spenard neighborhood.

A major salmon fishery for the Denaina natives who originally inhabited Anchorage, Fish Creek was known as Liq’aka Betnu, or ‘King Salmon Creek’ in their indigenous language.

Jay Stange, vice president of the Spenard Community Council and a major organizer for the Fish Creek Festival, remembers hearing stories of his dad fishing for salmon in Spenard in the 1950s.

As Spenard grew, Fish Creek shrunk.

“Fish Creek, which was at one time this amazing watershed that produced salmon runs got put in culverts. The headwaters used to be where the Sears Mall is. It was called Blueberry Bog, but it was filled to create a space for the mall,” Stange said.

Stange, along with other neighbors and advocates, created the first Fish Creek Festival last year to promote the neighborhood’s most important physical connection.

“It’s a fundamental part of this land. My big dream is to take it out of the culverts and charge the stream again with water from the Cuddy pond at the library and have a trail and a day-lit salmon-bearing creek, someday, where maybe my daughter or her daughter will be able to fish in it,” Stange said.

The theme for Fish Creek Festival is that “Fish Creek connects us in Spenard.” Stange encourages those to come to the festival and discover new sides to their neighborhood.

“I don’t care how much development has happened, I don’t care what neighborhoods have changed, whose grandparents have died, who bought what land, Fish Creek is still here. And when it rains everyone knows it’s there. It’s there, you can’t stamp it out. It’s like this thing that won’t go away and I love that about it,” Stange said. “Let’s discover this creek one neighbor at a time.”

The Fish Creek Festival in 2016 hosted more than 1,000 people and Stange is anticipating similar participation for this years’ event.

This year the festival will feature live music, food trucks, a human-powered duct tape and tarp parade, interactive art and community booths to educate visitors about the neighborhood, the creek and more.

All of bands feature musicians from Spenard and are Spenard based except for Big Fat Buddha, “which is only half Spenard,” Stange said.

Shelkaliba will perform 3 – 4 p.m., Russell Family Band from 4:15 – 5 p.m., The Cheapest Key from 5:15 – 6 p.m., Steven Bacon Band from 6:15 – 7:15 p.m. and Big fat Buddha from 7:30 – 9 p.m. 

A group of food trucks will be in attendance to feed festival goers, including Spenard’s own The Magpie.

Fish Creek Festival 2017 will be held from 3 – 9 p.m. at Woodland Park, 3508 Iowa Street.

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