Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Kenai resident Tony Perez, 8, slides down the end of an inflatable obstacle course on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, at this year's Labor Day Picnic at Kenai Central Highschool in Kenai, Alaska.

Hundreds gather to celebrate local workforce

Even under ominous clouds threatening rain, Kenai Peninsula community members enjoyed the fifth annual Labor Day Picnic with friends and family.

Sponsored by the United Steelworkers Local 4959 and hosted by Kenai Central High School, the picnic provided free lunch, live music, games and door prizes from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. It serves as a way to both thank the local workforce and bring the community together for a day of fun, attendees and organizers said.

“It keeps getting bigger,” said James Spinka, a steward for the United Steelworkers. “It’s just a good way for us to show our support to the local community, our local football team, local businesses (and) American-made products.”

Spinka said the event drew nearly 500 people to the high school last year, and that participation varies annually, partially because of the weather. The picnic takes about four months to plan, and the USW Local 4959 spends between $25,000-$30,000 on the event, including the purchase of door prizes, Spinka said.

By noon, volunteer Tim Agosti said he and Kenai resident Jay McKee had already served between 400-500 burgers, with at least another 800 to go.

Smaller participants raced through an inflatable obstacle course and leaped around a bounce house. Members of the Kenai Central High School football team joined younger children in rounds of lacrosse and flag football, and supervised carnival games.

In return for help from the players, the USW Local 4959 makes a donation to the football program. Kenai Coach John Marquez said he was grateful the weather held out for the picnic, and hopes the event can continue for years to come.

“It’s a win-win on everyone’s side,” Marquez said.

At its core, the picnic was about honoring and celebrating the laborers who have served the Kenai Peninsula community.

“We have several things here that are good to see,” said Kasilof resident Ron King. “The Industry (Appreciation) Day, and this, where it’s (about) the workers and the companies that helped build the country.”

King and his wife, Sandy, worked as union leaders for about 15 years when they lived in Juneau, he said. They enjoy attending the Labor Day Picnic to see the community spirit it creates, Sandy King said.

“It brings a lot of the community out,” she said. “I love seeing the sports guys help. And my grandkids love it.”

More than $5,000 worth of American-made raffle prizes were given out, all from local companies. Kenai residents have generally embraced and supported goods made in the U.S. over the years, Spinka said.

“I think this community does real well,” Spinka said. “We can always do a lot better.”

This year’s speakers were Kenai Mayor Pat Porter and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre. Attendees were also treated to live music from the Kenai folk rock band The Charmers’ Daughters.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Volunteer Amy West hands a hamburger to 4-year-old Brody Merchant, of Kenai, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 at the Labor Day Picnic at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Kenai resident Myles Sansotta (left) helps his 4-year-old daughter, Molli, tie a knot in the string of her balloon on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 at the annual Labor Day Picnic at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska.

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