25 years of recognition and celebration of the mighty Kenai River and its importance to life on the Kenai culminated at the Kenai Watershed Forum’s annual River Festival June 12th – 14th. Originally started to bring together families of the community to enjoy some time together while promoting the respect and preservation of the “lifeblood” of our community, the first festival saw several hundred turn out a humble beginning in comparison to the record breaking crowds of thousands that participated in the silver anniversary event. Over the years the festival has been held in a variety of weather conditions from nice to chilly, windy and wet conditions but this year Mother Nature provided the nicest weekend in the 25 year history of the celebration.
Tough the event has grown from a one day event to a three day festival, the purpose of it has remained; to enjoy, appreciate and learn how to preserve the pristine Kenai River. “The Kenai Watershed Forum is excited to continue the vision of those festival mothers of 25 years ago,” said Lisa Beranek, festival coordinator. This year’s main attractions were a testament in and of themselves to the degree to which the festival has grown, “For the younger tikes, KWF hosted the Kid’s zone, an area specially designed to entertain while educating the up and coming generations as to the importance of our rivers and environmental resources,” said Beranek. Another part of the festival the annual “Run for the River” also broke all records this year with more participants of all ages than ever before and nearly 200 runners signing up. Results for all participants in the Run for the River can be found at the Run for the River – Kenai Watershed Forum’s Facebook page.
28 bands made music into the sunny night with headliner Eilen Jewell making her appearance and performing songs from her new chart climbing album “Sundown over Ghost Town.” Baranek thanked the contribution of the local breweries Saint Elias Brewery, Kassik’s Brewery and Kenai River Brewing Company for their contribution to making the Beer Garden a great success. “The KWF does the festival more as a ‘fun’ raiser than a fund raiser but we sure appreciate all our sponsors and volunteer support. All proceeds however will go to the KWF habitat improvement programs for the watershed,” she said. The Festival also reported a record number of 29 artist and vendor booths, 15 food booths and 25 activities in the free Kids Zone. “We don’t accurately track attendees, but we’re sure it was a record year with more than 9,000 folks turning out not including vendors and volunteers,” said Baranek. Major sponsors included Alaska Communications, BP, Fred Meyer, Tesoro, Wells Fargo, Central Peninsula Hospital, ConocoPhillips and Aspen Hotels. “It was a great silver anniversary festival with the greatest reward being the preservation of community’s greatest asset for future generations.”