Two big days for the Kenai Chamber of Commerce as they moved the traditional January Awards dinner to an Awards Luncheon June 25th just nine days before the 4th of July Parade, the Chamber’s biggest event of the year. The 4th of July Parade, “Celebrating Independence, Forever Free” drew more participants and spectators than ever before, with over 80 float entries, with hundreds more marching in the parade and the estimated largest crowd of spectators in the history of the parade. It was a warm sunny summer day unlike many old timers could remember including Kenai Mayor Pat Porter who drove her Uncle Sam golf cart again in this year’s event, “It’s one of the nicest days ever, it truly is the nicest I can remember as far as weather but it’s always a great day to be in Kenai, it’s about the people who live in our community and truly love America,” said the Mayor.
On the last Wednesday of June the Kenai Visitor & Cultural Center was jammed to capacity to honor this year’s award recipients. “In years past, this event was held at night in January. With low attendance last year, we decided to move the event to the summer and hold it at lunchtime. We received an overwhelming positive response to the change with over 115 people turning out to celebrate our wonderful community,” said Chamber CEO Johna Beech. Being honored this year were for the Business/Organization of the Year Award was the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. Small Business of the Year Award went to Rediske Air, Community Service Award: Scott Griffith, XTO Energy. Service to Youth Award: Jim Beeson & Renee Henderson, Volunteer of the Year Award: Dawni Giugler, 0 and the Pioneer Award went to Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, “It’s truly humbling to have this type of recognition and it’s really recognition of all those who helped me along the way growing up in this community,” said Navarre whose family homesteaded in Nikiski.
The Log Cabin Award is by many esteemed as the greatest honor that can be received. “It is an unwritten law in Alaska that a cabin in the wilderness is a refuge to all weary travelers. A moral obligation requires those using a cabin to replenish the wood and supplies, thus leaving the cabin ready for the next traveler. This award is presented annually to a person or persons who have traveled to and lived in the Kenai area for the past 10 years, provided something special to the community and because of this, leave it a better place to be. This year, the award winner is a family that has been in the Kenai area for some time- over 20 years- but over the past few years, they have really emphasized the “Log Cabin” spirit in work they have done in the Caribou Hills,” said Brendyn Sheflea, past KCC president in presenting the award to the Pollard Family, owners of Freddie’s Road House in the Caribou Hills where thousands of dollars are raised annually at the Way Out Women snowmobile ride to help local people fighting cancer. “This year without any snow we still raised some $80,000 and had the biggest crowd turn out ever in the three years we’ve hosted the event. This is the best community to retire in on the globe,” said Pollard.
The final award of the afternoon The President’s Award went to Steve & Bobbie England of Kenai Catering. Kenai Chamber’s first executive director, Peggy Arness, and KCVB First Executive Director, Sue Carter, both shared memories of their time with the Chamber. They were presented with Lifetime Kenai Chamber Memberships.