Aleutian Electrocution fulfills high-voltage promise to Unalaska

a bonfire
Aleutian Electrocution revelers stay warm by piling old shipping pallets onto the fire. (Andy Lusk/KUCB)

This year’s Aleutian Electrocution, an annual music and arts festival in Unalaska, featured live DJs, fire dancing, metal art, potluck dinners, a bouncy castle, fireworks and bonfires that burned until dawn.

The festival, held at the end of July, raised $5,000 for the Rusting Man Foundation, a local nonprofit in the process of completing a memorial to Unalaska fishermen lost at sea.

Karel Machálek is president of the foundation and started the arts festival with his wife, Marie. He aims to have the memorial’s concrete foundation finished by the end of this year, with stainless steel statues of Unalaska locals also in the works.

“One of them is Dusty Dickerson, the [longtime local fisherman], and the other one is Joe Shaishnikoff, who used to be a crabber — that’s why he’s holding the crab pots…The third one is a guy from Seattle on one of those factory trawlers,” Machálek said of the models.

The city council is discussing where the memorial will go, but Machálek already has a favorite spot in mind.

a memorial
The planned Unalaska Fishermen’s Memorial is modeled after real Unalaskans. (Andy Lusk/KUCB)

“There were five proposed sites, and I think they’re letting the artists decide the best one,” he said “I think the best one is right above the new small boat harbor.”

A member of both the art and fishing worlds for a long time, Machálek is the former owner of Alpha Welding and Boat Repair, which he sold five years ago to start doing metal art full-time. His artwork is scattered throughout Unalaska. He created the cube in front of the Norwegian Rat Saloon and some of his work is currently on display in the Museum of the Aleutians.

Aleutian Electrocution attendees were able to get a glimpse of Machálek’s art studio in the festival’s main tent. The studio boasts years of in-progress and completed projects, including sculptures and flat-cut metal works, and the model for the fishermen’s memorial.

The festival is one-of-a-kind in Unalaska and hasn’t been happening for long. But Machálek is unsure of what the future holds, and he and his team are still deciding whether or not Aleutian Electrocution will continue into 2024. With the fishermen’s memorial expected to go up next year, Machálek wants to organize the festival at least one more time. He hopes to link future versions to the Burning Man Regional Network, which helps spread events similar to the famous Nevada gathering to locations around the world.

Fire dancers Mika, Corey and Zee put on a sizzling performance. (Andy Lusk/KUCB)

“I [go] to Burning Man every year,” Machálek said. “To actually be associated with Burning Man — [to] call it the ‘Regional Burn of Alaska’ — you have to invite somebody from management in Burning Man [and] after Aleutian Electrocution, they will say, ‘Oh, we want to put our name on it.’ That might happen one day, I don’t know.”

However, Machálek remains adamant that no plans are set in stone. Until then, memories around the bonfires of past Aleutian Electrocutions will have to do.

Partygoers Tama and Thu enjoy a Friday sunset. (Andy Lusk/KUCB)
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