'Come together'

Free food, fun gathers crowd to thank local industries

Two lines several hundred feet long ran the length of the Kenai Park Strip Saturday. 

 

Everyone in the line waited for hotdogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, roasted pig and fish.

And all of it was free.

“The most important thing about Industry (Appreciation) Days is everybody can come to the park and they can leave their wallet at home,” said Kenai City Council Member Tim Navarre, co-chair of the event.

This 19th annual event that included Kenai, Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough sponsorship is a day of gratitude to the oil and gas, fishing, and tourism industries on the Peninsula, said Jack Brown, the other co-chair.

To show this, they distribute awards to employees and members of the industries. Three trophies in each industry are awarded.

“What we wanted to do is show the industries, the employees, that we wanted them here,” Brown said.

Homer Chamber of Commerce Director Monte Davis, 60, received an award for his outstanding work in tourism.

“I’m actually thrilled and honored and relatively surprised,” he said. “I knew I brought a certain expertise to the Peninsula, but I didn’t think I was an outstanding individual.”

Kenai resident David Brindle, 45, was awarded for his outstanding work in the fishing industry, and Steve Smith, 59, of Peter’s Creek, for his work in oil and gas.

“The recognition is fantastic,” Smith said.

And the Peninsula’s gratitude is seen by the industries, Driftnetter John McCombs, of Ninilchik, said.

Unocal Corporation one year said the local support kept them on the Peninsula, he said. 

It also unites the oil and fishing industries, he said.

“This is one of the few places in the world where you can see oil and fishing working side-by-side,” he said.

Aside from the lines for the several tons of free food, people drifted through the park listening to Troubadour North; while others hammered nails under Home Depot’s pop-up or children jumped in a bounce castle.

Hilcorp, an oil corporation, even raffled off a four-wheeler.

“We just recognize that we play a big role in the community, and we want the community to know that we’re here and supportive of what’s going on around our operations,” Hilcorp External Affairs Manager Lori Nelson said.

The event began 19 years ago at the Leif Hansen Memorial Park, Brown said.

He said he and Aaron Goforth, the initial founder, were concerned Chevron and other industries at the time were leaving the Peninsula, so they started the day originally to thank just the oil industries. 

Then they added the fishing industry, then tourism.

The first year the event drew about 1,200 people, Brown said, but it has grown since.

Now he said about 5,000 people cycle through the little park before the day is out.

“I’m very proud to belong to this community,” Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said. “It’s incredible how people come together.”

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com

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