During what was only the first hour of the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Kenai River Festival at Soldotna Creek Park, countless attendees were already milling through the tents — browsing vendors’ wares or participating in an array of children’s activities.
Under a large tent near the entrance of the park, children were receiving face paintings, trying on life jackets, and participating in an obstacle course run by the local chapter of Trout Unlimited where they simulated the salmon life cycle — dodging pollutants, predators and rocks to deposit their eggs.
In a neighboring tent, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary quizzed attendees on questions relating to boating safety. Booths were also run by other entities like the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Ahead of the event, Kenai Watershed Forum Development Coordinator Sara Aamodt said that education was the biggest focus of the forum during the festival.
That education goes beyond the “Kidzone” in the form of a variety of educational sessions held around the park that include a morning bird walk, talks about planting and transplanting trees, salmon dissection, cold water immersion safety, and spruce bark beetles, among others. A full schedule of the education programs can be found on the forum’s Facebook page.
Around 4 p.m. on Friday, Willow King was hosting a session at a booth for The Goods + Sustainable Grocery & Where It’s At! called “Caring for Your Catch,” demonstrating proper methods for preparing and storing freshly caught salmon.
Only a few yards away was a booth manned by Emerson Kapp, the second-place winner from this year’s Caring for the Kenai competition. She was running her award-winning project, the Kenai Peninsula Maze Board, which also simulates the salmon life cycle as participants try to move a golf ball representing a salmon egg all the way up the Kenai River.
Though education is the focus, there’s plenty more going on at Soldotna Creek Park this weekend. Live music will run until 10 p.m. tonight and 4:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday, including performances by the Tune Weavers, the Ridgeway Rounders, Big Chimney Barn Dance, Baker and Nervis Rex.
While music is playing, there will also be a beer garden featuring Kenai River Brewing, Kassik’s Brewery, Stony Creek Brew House and Cooper Landing Brewery.
Saturday morning will host the Run for the River 5K and 10-mile race, which starts at Soldotna Creek Park.
The Kenai River Festival is “the biggest event the Kenai Watershed Forum puts on each year,” Aamodt said. She said it was an opportunity to put the educational aspects of their work front and center, as well as to give the forum a high-profile public outing.
For more information about the Kenai Watershed Forum or the Kenai River Festival, including full schedules of the educational sessions and performances, visit facebook.com/KenaiWatershedForum.