The bitter cold on Saturday didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering at Soldotna Creek Park to enjoy microbrews and bonfires during the 2020 Frozen RiverFest.
Despite the temperature hovering in the low teens, there was already a line of people waiting to get in when the event started at 4 p.m. Local musician Shonathin Hoskins took the stage at the start of the event to perform acoustic covers of popular songs as well as craft a few of his own using his signature loop pedal.
Sixteen different breweries from around the state — from Kenai River Brewing in Soldotna to Midnight Sun in Anchorage — had some of their most popular beers on tap. For an admission fee of $20 attendees got three drink tokens and a RiverFest mug, in which they could try something new or enjoy their favorites.
Doug Hogue, owner of Kenai River Brewing, said his brewery had something special on tap for Frozen RiverFest: The Helles Lager. Hogue said that since lagers take longer to brew than other types of beer the brewery doesn’t make them very often, but with things slowing down in the winter months they saw an opportunity. Lagers take about six weeks to brew, Hogue said, compared to the two weeks it takes for most other beers they have on tap.
“This is a sneak peak. We’ll do it at the brewery for just a little bit and then you won’t see it again until kind of late in the spring,” Hogue said. “It’s gonna be like a summer beer for us.”
While many of the attendees were locals from around the Kenai Peninsula, the event also drew people from around the state.
Nate Mole lives outside of Anchorage and had come down for the second year in a row. Mole’s birthday is on Monday, so Frozen RiverFest was a perfect opportunity to celebrate with his parents, who live in Kenai.
Mole said that his favorite brewery was 49th State Brewing based in Anchorage, but was enjoying a Tsalteshi Trail Ale from Kenai River Brewing and said that the local peninsula brewers had a lot of good things going for them.
“There’s a lot of breweries that are local here that have gone through some changes and I hope that they stick it through,” Mole said.
Frozen RiverFest started six years ago as a collaboration between Kenai River Brewing and the City of Soldotna. As the event has grown through the years the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has incorporated it into the many events that they host throughout the year, which also includes the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series in the summer.
Andy Heuiser, events and programs director for the Soldotna Chamber, said at the start of the event that he felt the turnout was good and would only get better as the night went on.
“Once the sun starts to go down people really start to pour in,” Heuiser said. “So I imagine if you look around here in a little bit, you’re going to see a lot less elbow room.”
Fire pits were scattered throughout Soldotna Creek Park to keep visitors warm thanks to the Big Ass Fish Company. Owner Justin Wells was also cooking bacon, toast and wontons on the central fire pit and casually giving it away to any hungry folks who passed by.
Wells said that BAFCO had been providing the fire pits since the first Frozen RiverFest and was just as much a key part of the event as the local brewers.