Soldotna will take a second swing at the winter version of one of its most popular summer celebrations when the Frozen River Fest returns this month.
Held for the first time last year, the festival acts as a counterpart to the well-known Kenai River Festival held in the summer at Soldotna Creek Park. The Frozen River Fest will be held in the same location from 3-6 p.m. on Feb. 20, and is meant to showcase the many local breweries the area has to offer more frequently throughout the year, said Bill Howell, a local craft beer enthusiast who was involved in a brainstorming session to set up last year’s inaugural festival.
“One of the things that sort of came out them was the idea of a winter beer festival,” Howell said. “We really went insane and decided we wanted to do it outdoors.”
Howell said area brewers were on board with the idea, since the winter celebration falls before they start getting busy.
Those who attend this year can enjoy bonfires, live music and food vendors, and those who do not wish to drink are offered free admission.
One goal for Frozen River Fest is that it should be family-friendly as well. Kids will be able to partake in face painting, archery and kick sleds. While the Kenai River Festival is mostly centered on the featured breweries and education via the Kenai Watershed Forum, Howell said one point of the winter festival is to prove that showcasing alcohol does not mean an event can’t be family-friendly.
“We’re trying in a way with the Frozen River Fest to sort of be the antithesis of that,” Howell said. “You don’t have to throw up these walls and say, “Oh my God, we’re going to be serving alcohol here, you children look away.’”
Less than ideal weather this winter will potentially impact the celebration. Doug Hogue of Kenai River Brewing Co. said it doesn’t look like the ice rink and dog mushing that made an appearance at last year’s festival will be possible this time around due to lack of snow and higher temperatures.
The Kenai River should at least be frozen at the edges, said Jack Sinclair, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum.
Sponsored by the forum, the City of Soldotna, the Tustumena 200 Sled Dog Race, Kenai River Brewing Co. and St. Elias Brewing Company, the festival will feature 13 breweries and wineries, and those who attend can enter a raffle to win a firebowl.
To reflect the cold weather that will surround Frozen River Fest, Hogue said the brewery will feature a Scottish Wee Heavy, a beer he described as one that works better with the cold.
“A lot of the breweries are bringing something along that line,” he said. “It’s a little bigger beer and a little higher alcohol (content).”
A dinner will precede the festival on Feb. 19 at The Flats Bistro, where Howell said people can chat on a more personal level with this year’s brewers, as well as find out which beers pair best with which foods. The $50 tickets can be purchased at The Flats Bistro.
Those who attend the festival must be 21 or accompanied by an adult, and those who wish to partake in what the breweries will have to offer can buy a $25 ticket, which will get them a wristband, four drink tickets and a metal drinking mug to keep and reuse at future festivals.