The Kenai River Festival that started 27 years ago as an event to increase awareness of what we can do to preserve the greatest renewable resource on the Kenai Peninsula has evolved from an afternoon event that drew hundreds, to a three-day event that draws families from all over Alaska and visitors from around the world.
The idea of Peggy Mullen and friends, the festival was put under the development of the Kenai Watershed Forum over a decade ago.
For several years the kickoff to the River Festival for those who love a 5K or 10 mile run along the river has been the Run for the River, with proceeds going to support the festival and projects of the Kenai Watershed Forum that sustains the watershed. Race Central this year was at Soldotna Creek Park and according to race organizer Rhonda McCormick the event followed the new course by the river and over the new foot bridge.
“Race central was in the pavilion next to the playground at the park and course left there through the trees on a path that goes by the Kenai River Brewery and connects to a trail that cuts over to Swift Water Park and back to race central. Years ago the homesteaders put in a bridge over Soldotna Creek to get to their property back the day, but the creek started flooding and made the bridge inoperable so five years ago the Kenai Watershed Forum secured a grant and replaced the old car bridge with a beautiful pedestrian bridge that is just perfect and fun for our run for the river. We had a lot of families participate this year and many young ones who did the race with their parents. We had parents than ran with their kids in strollers right along with the competitive runners, everyone is always welcome except dogs or pets.
“The purpose of the festival is free fun and educational activities for children and we had more educational booths than ever this year where kids came and enjoyed making things that all related to the river” said McCormick.
“But not to forget those who love to eat,” added festival coordinator and KWF executive director Jack Sinclair. “Where else on the Peninsula can you find the variety of food vendors all in one place? A lot of folks love to come to the festival to have their favorite dish along the banks their favorite river.”
Many youngsters enjoyed petting the baby black Icelandic goats that were on display during the festival compliments of Matti’s Farm.
“There are more foster children in Alaska than there are homes for them and our idea is for helping Alaska youth to be more in touch with where their food and fiber come from and the ecology that makes it all happen,” said Blair Martin.
Kids also got to meet in person for the first time Captain Conservation, the new Peninsula Superhero created by this year’s Caring for the Kenai winner Anya Hondel.