What started with a handful of central Kenai Peninsula residents gathering to celebrate the Kenai River has turned in to one of the area's biggest events.
The Kenai River Festival, organized by the Kenai Watershed Forum, will be held for the 22nd year Friday through Sunday at Soldotna Creek Park. The festival still maintians its original purpose -- to celebrate the river, Festival Coordinator Lisa Beranek said.
"We really want to take an opportunity to celebrate the river and it's impact on our daily lives," Beranek said. "But also to learn how to give back to the river, to keep it healthy and productive for healthy generations."
Some of the highlights from this year's festival are comparable to last year. There will be three days of live music that will include headliners 907 on Friday, Big Fat Buddha on Saturday and Half-Baked Alaskans on Sunday, among others.
Next to the stage will be the beer garden, Beranek said. Kenai River Brewing Company, St. Elias and Kassisk's will be on hand to serve their products.
"We're really excited the local breweries are coming together to help the Kenai Watershed Forum," she said.
There will be free activities for children all weekend featuring performances by Will Hornyak, who uses fables and tall tales to engage his listeners, Beranek said.
There will be food vendors throughout the park serving up their creations and artisan vendors selling their works.
The annual Run for the River 5-kilometer/10-mile run or walk will be held again this year, Beranek said. Late registration is Friday at the Runners Feed, the registration fee is $30, or participants can sign up on race day for $35.
Beranek said attendance has increased each year, with about 10,000 people coming to the three-day event last year. She hopes the trend will continue this year.
"The more the merrier," she said. "Folks come through on vacation from out of state and out of country."
Along with fun, Beranek said the goal is to learn a couple things as well.
"We're really hoping to bring people together to celebrate the river and learn a little bit," she said. "The hope is that folks walk away with one or two easy things in their life to help protect the river in the future."
For more information about the festival, visit http://www.kenaiwatershed.org/kenairiverfestival.html.