Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Administrative Assistant Claire Jones and Donations and Communications Manager Lilly Murray stand with Soldotna Vice Mayor Lisa Parker as they fundraise for the King of the River Food Drive at the Wednesday Market in Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Administrative Assistant Claire Jones and Donations and Communications Manager Lilly Murray stand with Soldotna Vice Mayor Lisa Parker as they fundraise for the King of the River Food Drive at the Wednesday Market in Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai-Soldotna rivalry central to new food bank fundraiser

The latest fundraiser for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank pits the cities of Kenai and Soldotna against one another in a friendly competition to donate the most food in the King of the River Food Drive.

At the Wednesday Market in Soldotna Creek Park, the food bank hosted a booth to collect donations, and Soldotna’s Vice Mayor Lisa Parker greeted passersby and encouraged them to pledge their support for the city. Buckets were set up for both Kenai and Soldotna.

“It’s all for a good cause,” she said.

Lilly Murray, the food bank’s donations and communications manager, said that the fundraiser started Monday, and that it runs through 3 p.m. on the Fourth of July. All donated food is weighed, and financial donations count at $1 per pound.

The city with the most pounds donated will receive a trophy, and the city’s mayor will throw out the first pitch at the Fourth of July Peninsula Oilers game against the Mat-Su Miners at Coral Seymour Park in Kenai at 6 p.m.

Admission to the game will be free, and the mayors will be serving free hot dogs and drinks to attendees. A flyer for the event says that there will be other games for kids to participate in at the park.

Murray said that the fundraising competition is the combined effort of the food bank, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula and the Oilers. She credited the clubs’ Jeff Dolifka with leading the concept — providing a free sporting event with incentive to donate to the food bank, but with the new twist of the competitive element.

“Let’s reawaken that old rivalry between Kenai and Soldotna,” Murray said. “Now who’s gonna win? Red or blue?”

Counts are updated daily via radio broadcast on KSRM. As of Wednesday, nearly 20,000 pounds had been reported, with Soldotna leading by around 5,500 pounds.

Those numbers include larger donations made by sponsors. Murray said some had split their donations evenly between the two cities, while others had taken sides.

“Everybody’s really getting into the spirit of feeding the hungry and helping those less fortunate,” Murray said.

The food bank spent three hours at Soldotna Creek Park for donations, and will similarly host a space for three hours at Kenai’s softball greenstrip on the Fourth of July. A live tally will be ran on that final day, and at 3 p.m., when the competition ends, the winner will be named at the greenstrip.

On Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m., trucks will be located in both cities accepting donations. In Soldotna, the truck will be in front of the Blazy Mall, and in Kenai, the truck will be in the parking lot of the former Carl’s Jr. across from Safeway.

For more information about the King of the River Food Drive or the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, visit facebook.com/kpfoodbank.

This story was edited Thursday with updated counts and updated information about programming on the Fourth of July.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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