Annual Peninsula Air Fair wings into Soldotna, Kenai

On the flight line

Tech. Sgt. Matthew "Nemo" Nemeth heard a lot about bombs on Saturday.


The little kids always ask "Can we drop bombs?" he said. "The answer is no."

The C-17 Globemaster III can carry tanks, troops, 140,000 pounds of cargo and even helicopters. But it doesn't drop bombs.

Flight enthusiasts were greeted with an eclectic mix of experimental aircraft, military planes and a helicopter parked Saturday during the 12th annual Kenai Peninsula Air Fair and Poker Run at the Kenai Municipal Airport.

As Nemeth and Capt. Brian Marasco stood in the cargo hold of the C-17, along with nearly 30 spectators, they both said it was nice to see people interested in what they did for a living.

As they spoke, a C-130 landed and taxied in just behind their open cargo hold.

"Ah, the Coast Guard finally showed up," Marasco said.

While the military planes stayed parked there all day, several of the smaller planes, about 50 of them, started off the day at the Soldotna Airport where they had breakfast and greeted community members.
Fitting so many varied aircraft into one place wasn't easy said Mary Bondurant, airport manager for Kenai's municipal airport.

"It's kind of first-come, first-served," she said. "The parking plan goes out the window."

She said the festival usually draws about 200-250 people depending on the weather, however Saturday seemed packed compared to previous years.

"We've never run out of food before, so we've been going to get more food," she said. "We've had to extend our parking lot twice."

The 46 people who registered for the poker run, a game that requires participants to visit at least five airports for tickets redeemable for a poker hand in Kenai, were given their meals for free. Everyone else paid $5 to eat barbecue while they wandered around among the planes.

The top 19 hands will win a payout, Bondurant said.

During the celebration Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche and Kenai Mayor Pat Porter teamed up to read a proclamation declaring May 20 military appreciation day and thanking military members present for their service.

As kids ran around, jumping in and out of cockpits and gesturing for their parents to follow, Anchorage resident John Davis stood near his reflective kit plane jokingly dubbed "The Chick Magnet."

The kit, which took him about five years to build, sported a tall, clear, rounded bubble over the cockpit which he said allowed for spectacular views.

As he spoke, Davis paused to answer occasional questions from visitors about everything from what his plane was made of -- aluminum -- to how many hours a year he flew it -- about 50.

Davis said he'd been coming to the air fair for five years and thought a lot of the draw was to see what other pilots had been doing with their planes.

His kit plane, classified as an experimental aircraft, is allowed to have several more modifications than other types of planes.

"There's a lot of leeway," he said. "So it's about coming out and seeing other people's workmanship."

Rashah McChesney can be reached at


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