The Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual Kenai River Festival will be back in Soldotna Creek Park this weekend to celebrate its 25th year.
This Friday through Sunday, a few new additions will be thrown into the mix of traditional activities aimed at protecting and supporting the health of what the forum refers to as the central Kenai Peninsula’s “lifeblood.”
The community commemoration that began as a handful of locals looking to honor the river has “grown tremendously” in the past quarter-century, said festival director Lisa Beranek.
For proof, just look at the numbers.
The location could not accommodate the more than 15 different food vendors and 31 artisan booths setting up shop this year, said Vendor Director Edgar Guerron Orejuela. Some are new to the festival, some are old, but all support the forum’s mission, he said.
The Watershed Forum’s classic salmon dinner, Alaska Taco Shack and Day to Day Gourmet are only a few of the various kinds of cuisines whose scents will accompany attendees throughout the grounds.
Guerron Orejuela said he couldn’t pick a favorite this year.
“They are all a big part of a festival,” Guerron Orejuela said. “People come to look at good art and eat good food and listen to good music. There is everything you could want.”
The forum made sure that entertainment will be available for all. For the tikes, 25 activities will pepper the park, said Beranek.
Kids are encouraged to pick up the Passport to Fun and log their stops at each game and exercise, which will give them the chance to win an iPad mini, Beranek said. With crafts, storytelling and amusement, the KWF Kid’s Zone emphasizes education and awareness of the need to keep the Kenai River healthy and clean, she said.
The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association and Alaska Department of Fish and Game will host a lesson in salmon dissection Sunday, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Face painting, fish painting, casting class, model “river” rockets and aquatic archery are also around for active families.
New activities that appeal to people ages 12-and-over and 11-and-under have been added into the lineup, notably, and almost impossible to miss, is a life-size, human foosball table. Adults and children can join in the competition, Beranek said.
For families itching to expend even more energy, the Run for the River starts at 8 a.m. before the festival begins on Saturday.
Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, musical performers will serenade audiences until the festival ends on Sunday. The headliner this year is Eilen Jewell who is stopping on the banks of the Kenai river during her debut trip to Alaska, Beranek said.
Jewell, “the queen of the minor key, mixes early blues and 1960s rock in an amazing performance we are excited to bring to our community,” Beranek said. Her recent album ‘Sundown Over Ghost Town’ is on its way up the charts, and she been making quite a name for herself in the Lower 48, she said.
Twenty-five other bands will grace the state this year, including a list of Kenai Peninsula standards. Mika Day, Robb Justice Band, and Blackwater Railroad will be performing Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Music can be enjoyed from out on the lawn or in the beer garden, which will open Friday evening and boasts beverages from the three central Kenai Peninsula breweries: Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop, St. Elias Brewery Company and Kenai River Brewing Company. A valid ID will be required to enter.
Local sponsors and volunteers make it possible to bring the free annual event to the community possible, Beranek said. Spots are still open during the festival and for the breakdown Sunday evening, she said. Interested parties can stop by the Watershed Forum building near Soldotna Creek Park or call 260-5449.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.