While the Kenai River Festival has always been a lot of fun, the purpose of the event since its inception in 1990 has been education about the watershed and its ecosystem. For the first time the Kenai River Festival was held this year at the meandering Centennial Park in Soldotna along the river. Known as a campsite and boat launch the park provided a unique venue for vendors and educational booths. The expanded three day event this year saw record crowds on a nice Friday, rain wind and puddles Saturday and a nice sunny Sunday for the conclusion of the festivities. “It was pretty fantastic,” said Kenai Watershed Forum executive director Robert Ruffner at the close of the event Sunday, “We make our best effort to put the River Festival on for our community to enjoy our parks and learn about the river and have a good time in a festive environment. It was a new venue for the festival but it worked out really well and all the feedback I got was that it worked out really well and everyone enjoyed themselves. I was honored to help facilitate it. It’s hard to take credit for something the community is really responsible for putting on, I think we had in the neighborhood of 180 volunteers this year that came out and really worked hard to put the festival on, we can organize but without the volunteers it wouldn’t happen,” he said.
The Kids Zone featured everything from the earthquake shake house to the Caring for the Kenai winner’s circle that showcased some of this year’s contest finalists and their ideas. There were fish hats and t-shirts to be made, river rockets to be flown and personal floatation jackets to be properly fitted. The annual Run for the River drew nearly two hundred runners who enjoyed the cool rainy run along the unique river course that started and finished at Stanley Chrysler. From Friday through Sunday 27 different bands from all over Alaska and the local area offered music that reflected the care of the environment and preservation of the Kenai River. The event has grown to include an extensive artisan market and food vendors that offered everything from a fresh salmon barbeque dinner to stuffed waffles and cotton candy.
Next year will be the 25th Anniversary of the Kenai River Festival and while Ruffner was too busy striking the 8,000 some square feet of tents that were erected for the event to think too much about next year he did say, “I guarantee that we will keep doing what we say we’re going to do and the 25th year will hold true to our mission of bringing this educational event to the local community in the best way we can.” Information on all of the work undertaken by the Kenai Watershed Forum is available by logging on to www.kenaiwatershed.org.