Food and fun were in no short supply at this year’s Industry Appreciation Day. Held every August in Kenai, the day is organized by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association as a way to celebrate the industries at the heart of the peninsula’s economy.
The celebration took place from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Kenai Park Strip and featured raffles, frozen T-shirt contests, buoy pull races and free food. The local 4-H chapters served up this year’s grand champion hog while volunteers from Home Depot taught kids how to build birdhouses.
About halfway through the day, there was an award ceremony that honored individuals and businesses in four industries — oil and gas, commercial fish, tourism and health care. The awards were presented by Tim Dillon, executive director of KPEDD, Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, and Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who is touring the areas of the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su Valley that have been impacted by several wildfires, gave a speech to the crowd before the award ceremony and noted that “the Kenai really likes to celebrate.”
Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce also spoke to the crowd and gave appreciation to the emergency responders and veterans in the community.
“Can I just say God bless America, and this is the greatest place on earth,” Pierce said in his speech.
After his speech, Dunleavy stayed for a while to chat with residents and briefly spoke to the Clarion about the wildfires in the area.
Dunleavy recently issued a disaster declaration for the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna Boroughs and made additional state resources available to those areas combatting the wildfires. Dunleavy said on Saturday that the declarations were timely and recognized the need for additional resources.
“We drove through the area of the Swan Lake Fire two days ago, and it was just surreal,” Dunleavy said. “It looked like something out of a science fiction movie.”
Even with the wildfires in the area, Kenai residents enjoyed clear skies and warm weather during Industry Appreciation Day. The Winger family — Ron, Teea, Kass, Lyman and Jessa, spent the day playing games and winning prizes. Kass tried his hand at the frozen T-shirt contest and walked away with a new frisbee while his older brother Lyman won the buoy-pulling contest and won a new monster truck. The participants in all of the day’s competitions are chosen by raffle, and Lyman and Kass both got to compete for the first time.
“He (Lyman) was so excited when he heard his number called that you’d think he had already won,” Ron said.
Jessa had her eyes on a bigger prize — a new bicycle, one of several dozen donated by Hilcorp and raffled off at the end of the day. At four years old, Jessa had just recently mastered her riding skills this summer. Now that the training wheels were off, Jessa was ready for an upgrade.
Industry Appreciation Day Awards
Outstanding Individual in Oil and Gas – Mark Necessary
Outstanding Support Business in Oil and Gas – Unocal Retirees Association
Outstanding Business in Oil and Gas – All American Oilfield
Outstanding Individual in Commercial Fishing – Bruce Gabrys
Outstanding Support in Commercial Fishing – Jeff Berger
Outstanding Support in Commercial Fishing – Alaska Marine Safety Education Association
Outstanding Business in Tourism – Wildman’s
Outstanding Individual in Tourism – Cindy Clock
Outstanding Support Business in Tourism – Alaska Railroad
Outstanding Support Business in Health Care – Central Peninsula Hospital Volunteers
Outstanding Individual in Health Care – Dr. Nels Anderson, M.D.
Outstanding Business in Health Care – Seldovia Village Tribe Health and Wellness
Exceptional Service to the Community – Herb Settler
Spirit of Industry Appreciation Day – Bryan Zak