Funny River Festival supports community’s ‘great big living room’

Mary Youngman describes the Funny River Community Center as the area’s big great living room.

She’s the advertising chairwoman for the Funny River Community Association, which is hosting the Funny River Festival this weekend.

The festival is the only big event the community association organizes, with the proceeds going towards keeping the community center running.

“It’s kind of our only real big money maker,” Linda Vizenor, who is helping plan the festival, said. “It’s what supports us.”

The small building on Pioneer Access Road, about 13 miles down Funny River Road, sits near the community’s new playground, paved walking trail, basketball court, pickleball court and sledding hill. During the 2014 Funny River fire the community center quickly expanded into a disaster relief center for area residents affected.

The community center offers events for the public nearly every day of the week, including a cards night, a quilters meeting, craft groups, an exercise group and on the first and third Friday of every month a volunteer cooks soup for the center.

Youngman moved to Funny River from North Pole about seven years ago. She’s been attending the quilting club at the community center almost as long.

“(The community center) really serves as the gathering spot for the residents here and the community,” Youngman said. “The community center is really special for me.”

Youngman said she’s hoping the festival generates enough funds to keep the community center’s lights on and doors open.

“We’re working towards just keeping a place for the community, you know as we age we don’t just sit home and rock and read, or watch TV,” Youngman said. “We get involved with people.”

The Funny River community has been traditionally home to retirees and seasonal residents. The 2010 census shows that 50.2 percent of the population is 45 or older, with a median age of 45. However, both Youngman and Vizenor are seeing younger families move in.

“There’s a lot of young families building out here or have moved in here,” Vizenor said. “We can only tell by seeing how many kids use the playground we built.”

Vizenor moved from Eagle River to retire in Funny River 11 years ago. She worked on getting the playground installed near the community center, which some residents didn’t necessarily see a need for.

“I know when we first started looking to try to put the playground in there were a lot of people that said, ‘Well, there just isn’t anybody to use it,’” Vizenor said. “I had come from a parks background and I said, ‘If you build it, they’ll come.’ It’s been amazing to see. When we were playing bingo the other night, a group of teens came and played basketball all evening. I was so thrilled to see them.”

Vizenor and Youngman both said that the winter population is growing as well.

“The population drops in half in winter, but now there’s a lot of people moving in, and those of us that are used to having our roads to ourselves are going to have to learn to share,” Vizenor said.

To celebrate their growing community, Youngman said the Funny River Festival is a place where neighbors can catch up with each other while participating in games, tournaments, an auction and other events.

“It’s more of an old-fashioned get-together,” Vizenor said

The events begin Friday with a golf tournament at 10 a.m. and playing card tournaments for cribbage, nickels and pinochle at 6 p.m., with a split the pot raffle to end the night.

Saturday starts at noon with an opening ceremony, more games, arts and craft vendors and a cake walk. There will be a kid run for children 8 and under at 1 p.m. and a brisket dinner at 5:30 p.m., followed by bingo at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday starts at 9 a.m. with a pancake breakfast, a live auction at noon, with the festival’s main raffle to follow.

Main raffle prizes include a chest freezer filled with 175 pounds of meat, a Traeger grill, a chainsaw and more. There will daily snack bars and door prizes. Live music will be played throughout the weekend, as well.

The festival is Aug. 3, 4 and 5 at the Funny River Community Center, 35850 Pioneer Access Road.

Reach Victoria Petersen at vpetersen@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in Life

A sign points to the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, May 9, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Art Center accepting submissions for ‘Medieval Forest’

The deadline to submit art is Saturday at 5 p.m.

People identifying as Democrats and people identifying as Republicans sit face to face during a workshop put on by Braver Angels in this screenshot from “Braver Angels: Reuniting America.” (Screenshot courtesy Braver Angels)
KPC lecture series to feature film and discussion about connecting across political divide

“Braver Angels: Reuniting America” is a nonpartisan documentary about a workshop held in the aftermath of the 2016 election of Donald Trump

Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion
This basil avocado dressing is creamy, sweet, tangy, and herbaceous — great for use on bitter greens like kale and arugula.
Memories of basil and bowling with Dad

This dressing is creamy, sweet, tangy, and herbaceous

Photo courtesy of Al Hershberger
Don and Verona pose inside their first Soldotna grocery store in 1952, the year they opened for business.
Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 5

By 1952, the Wilsons constructed a simple, rectangular, wood-frame building and started the town’s first grocery

File
Minister’s Message: Finding freedom to restrain ourselves

We are free to speak at a higher level of intelligence

Dancers rehearse a hula routine at Diamond Dance Project near Soldotna on Thursday. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Moving into magic

Diamond Dance Project all-studio concert puts original spin on familiar stories

Orion (Jacob Tremblay) and Dark (Paul Walter Hauser) in “Orion and the Dark.” (Promotional photo provided by Dreamworks Animation)
On the Screen: ‘Orion and the Dark’ is resonant, weird

Fear of the dark is natural, not some problem that Orion has to go on adventure to overcome

This beef and barley stew is both comforting and nourishing — perfect for when your fingers are frozen and your cheeks are chapped. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Drape yourself in warmth with comforting stew

Nourishing beef and barley stew is perfect for cold days

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Hey Boreas. Knock it off. You’re flash freezing my karma

For the last few weeks, we have been hosting Boreas, the Greek god of winter

Members of the Keeler family and some Anchor Point church members get a ride on Jimmy Elliot’s “mud sled” on the way to services at the Elliot home, circa 1956. Lorna Keeler is sitting on the far-left side of the sled. April Keeler is the middle girl of the trio sitting in back, and Larry Keeler is standing behind those girls. (Photo courtesy of the Pratt Museum)
Keeler Clan of the Kenai — Part 4

Lawrence and Lorna Keeler and their family moved from Oregon to Alaska in June 1948 and began building a new life for themselves

File
Minister’s Message: Redrawing the boundary lines

Dark forces have made their way into the world ever since the time of Adam and Eve and now Jesus shows up to redraw the boundary lines

A copy of Jennifer Brice’s “Another North: Essays” rests on a desk inside the Peninsula Clarion offices on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024 in Kenai, AK. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Meditations on middle age

“Another North” shares lifetime of experiences through personal narratives