Twenty three years ago Peggy Mullen and friends decided to start an event to increase awareness about conserving the Kenai River while celebrating the abundance the river provides for so many industries in our community. The festival had modest beginnings with local agencies and conservation booths participating in the single day event, but the purpose of the event and the importance of the Kenai River grew each year. When the event grew too large for Soldotna to accommodate in was moved to the Park Strip in Kenai and continued to be organized by volunteers. With the organizing of the Kenai Watershed Forum (KWF) in 1997 the coordination of the festival was turned over to the non-profit organization and became part of their educational program.
With the improvements at Soldotna Creek Park KWF returned the festival to banks of the Kenai River where it started and expanded the celebration to a two day event. Lisa Beranek KWF festival director this year reported, “The 23rd annual Kenai River Festival was wildly successful in its goal to bring people together to celebrate the Kenai River and share easy ways that everyone can help protect the river and its vitality for the future.” Perfect weather following a cool and snowy May brought folks to the festival in record numbers, “With record breaking attendance the festival is a ‘friend raiser’ not a fundraiser. It is put on by the people and for the people with a myriad of community and volunteer support. If you were at the festival enjoying the river related kid’s activities, the free concerts or Run for the River you undoubtedly saw a number a teal Kenai Watershed Forum t-shirts in the crowd. Those shirts were only given to the 150+ volunteers who make this festival possible,” said Beranek.
The weekend festival and consistent sunny skies brought folks down from Anchorage and up from Homer to enjoy the music of Amy Lou Hettinger and groups like 907, Alaskana and the Wailing Jenny’s. Folks gathered along the shore of the river and sampled their favorite foods from a variety of vendors while appreciating the mighty Kenai and all it brings to their community. “The Kenai Watershed Forum is proud and humbled by the community support for this annual event and looks forward to next years festival the second weekend in June. In the mean time we are planning the 2014 festival and focusing on the high quality research, restoration, education and volunteer programs it facilitates in the summer months,” said Beranek.