Wrangell’s sixth annual Bearfest starts Wednesday, and it’s bringing bear experts, live music and a certified marathon to town.

Bearfest founder Sylvia Ettefagh said the theme of this year’s festival is climate change and how it affects bears.

“We’re seeing it from ice floes and habitat for polar bears up north–and that’s why polar bears are in this one–to changes in stream conditions, which affect fish conditions here in Southeast Alaska,” Ettefagh said.

The symposium will include speakers who research the impacts of climate and habitat change on polar bears, black and brown bears, and desert-dwelling Gobi bears from Mongolia.

In the past six years, Ettefagh said Bearfest has increased the quality of its workshops and live music performances.

Country and bluegrass band Todd Grebe and Cold Country will be playing at Rayme’s Bar, the Nolan Center and the Elks lodge this weekend.

A new workshop will feature a demonstration of drone photography. The Bearfest marathon is certified for the first time.

Ettefagh said part of the original mission in starting Bearfest was to promote Wrangell.

“Bearfest has now been in articles and in papers across the country and in Europe. It has attracted a lot of attention,” Ettefagh said. “My understanding is The International Bear Association is putting together a scholarship to send some of their students over for Bearfest.”

Bearfest is also incorporating other events into its schedule, including the grand opening of the Wrangell Cooperative Association’s Cultural Center and the community market.

For a complete schedule of events, check out alaskabearfest.org.