In the 1970s visitors were greeted by an AK. Dept. of Transportation site with greasy trucks and machinery where now there is a beautiful walkway along the famous Kenai River. The manicured path that leads visitors down to where Soldotna Creek enters the river was an unkempt trail that only local kids new about where they might snag a fish or two or go wading and play with stickleback fry. Now thanks to cooperative efforts of local, state and federal agencies the Soldotna Creek Park is not only a place to experience the natural beauty of the river, but the communities culture, art and produce as well, every Wednesday. “We’re excited to have Soldotna’s backyard up and running with the beautiful new stage and pavilion with electricity and restrooms, so now it’s time to start taking advantage of the park and we’re planning more events and activities. During the winter we had our first movie in the park with campfires and a movie up on the jumbo screen and we’ll be bringing that back this winter along with an ice skating path that we’ll flood and surface with our Zamboni so kids and families are looking forward to that and now the Wednesday market has grown to great proportions with live music every Wednesday night from 6:00-9:00pm that’s totally free with food carts sticking around so you can have dinner in the park without packing the picnic basket you can put out a blanket and enjoy local music,” Joel Todd, assistant director for Soldotna parks & rec. told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce recently at a special meeting they held on a Wednesday in the park. According to Todd the park is being reserved for weddings and even Sunday church services, “We’re excited about the community taking advantage of the space now that it’s a real park and something we are all excited to have,” he said.
As the Kenai River Festival returned to the park of its origin for its 25th Anniversary, a new sport known as human foosball was unveiled that Todd says will be continuing, “It worked just perfect so during Progress Days weekend we will be hosting a human foosball tournament with teams of seven or eight. The chamber and Parks & Rec are working on that now and will have information for anyone interested in participating. It’s not just about fishing anymore in this great town, it’s fun all year long and we are glad to be a part of it,” said Todd. With Alaska’s official balladeer Hobo Jim providing a free concert with kids in the park following the Wednesday Market chamber meeting, Annette Villa with Valley Bounty Fresh Produce told those in attendance how her idea of a market in the park had evolved, “There’s here now something for everyone we have fresh Alaska grown produce, music, food vendors, craft vendors a little bit of everything along the banks of the beautiful Kenai River and the renovated Soldotna Creek Park. We open every Wednesday at 11:00am and we don’t leave until after the music ends around 9:00 o’clock and at 6:00pm Kenai River Brewery comes in with their beer garden. The goal of the market since inception has been to have a place where the family can have fun and have something for everyone and something visitors won’t want to miss out on. We welcome vendors of all Alaska grown produce. Those who want to join us can do so by going to the Soldotna Chamber website and click under events where you’ll find an application,” said Villa.