While the 18th Industry Appreciation Day in Kenai might not have been the sunniest, it might have been one of the most memorable. Under cloudy skies an estimated two thousand residents came out to the Park Strip in Kenai to hear live music, and enjoy the games, free foods, and the opportunity to talk with local as well as state and national elected officials. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski and Speaker of the House Mike Chenault were on hand to present the most prestigious award of the day, the Don Gilman Service to Community Award, presented to an individual in recognition of their superior performance and dedication to the Kenai Peninsula Community. After speaking to the attributes of this year's recipient, Senator Murkowski asked Speaker Chenault if he'd announce the name of the winner by reading the plaque. As Chenault took the plaque from its box and read the name he became suddenly silent, "I really thought they'd made a mistake, I'd been asked to present an award not get one," Mike said in an interview with the Dispatch later, "but then I was truly speechless, what an honor and the last thing I would have thought of after coming to the stage. Don was a friend of our family, a great gentleman, and a true statesman for Alaska and our Borough as a borough mayor and state senator. I don't know how to accept the award, after awhile it'll sink in, but it's nice once in awhile to be recognized and especially with such an award as this," he said.
Senator Murkowski said it was fun to be able to catch Chenault by surprise, "It's not too often you can pull off a surprise now days and Mike and I served in the legislature together and to see him recognized by the community he represents in this way and to see him speechless really was fun and brought a smile to my heart," she said. Regarding Industry Appreciation Day and the outlook for Alaska's industry the Senator said, "As Alaskans we have so much that we enjoy, but we can't live here if we don't have the jobs that industry provides so that we can live here and raise our families. So this celebration of the industries that support our quality of life, whether its our fisheries, oil and gas, tourism, or mining whatever it is to be able to say thank you, we are glad you are here is another example of how appreciative and caring the people of the Kenai Peninsula truly are," said Murkowski.
Other individuals and businesses recognized for their excellence in the category of Tourism, the Outstanding Person was Prospector John, Outstanding Business Bear Creek Winery, Support Business KSRM Radio Group, Superior Performance and Dedication Award, Kenai Peninsula Tourism & Marketing Council. For Commercial Fishing Outstanding Individual was Paul Shadura, Cook Inlet Setnetter, Support Industry, Alaska Oil Sales, Outstanding Processor Coal Point Trading Co of Homer. For the Oil and Gas Industry Outstanding Support Business was Heat & Frost, Outstanding Individual David Hall with Cook Inlet Energy, and Outstanding Business Buccaneer Alaska. Other special community service awards were given to Tim Navarre and Jack Brown for their years of dedication to the Industry Appreciation Day event, Outstanding Sporting Event - The 2011 Peninsula Oilers Baseball Team.
Winning the first Industry Appreciation Day Watermelon eating contest held between the Peninsula Brown Bears hockey team players was Paul Bourbeau Jr. from Montreal Canada. Carol Bannock, who serves on the committee that organizes the annual event asked, "Were you there with us? If you were you enjoyed, BBQ pork and salmon, hot dogs and hamburgers, chili, cotton candy, kettle corn, watermelon, and a refreshing Coke-a-Cola product. You could have slid down the giant slide, watched the Kenai Fire Department's ladder truck in action, made a wooden bird house, and danced the Zumba for 4 hours. You could have also talked to our KPB Mayor Candidates and met our US Senator Lisa Murkowski in person. I ask you this; where in America could you do all that for free? Industry we love you for what you bring to us not only on Industry Appreciation Day, but ALL YEAR!! Thank you!"