Even the music addressed the sun and the “heat” as Kentucky transplant and Anchorage based singer songwriter Amy Lou Hettinger sang about the summer heat of her childhood home and what tends to follow when the evening cool down comes: “I do declare it’s gonna rain.”
No rain, no cold and no wind came to Soldotna Creek Park Saturday as the smell of charcoal briquets rose on the air mixing freely with grilled corn, patchouli and barbecue as people gathered along the shore of the Kenai River to sit and sample their favorite fair food, visit and celebrate the river running through the heart of their community.
The great weather delivered one of the most well attended festivals in years. By noon Saturday, the halfway mark of the three-day affair, the festival surpassed the normal annual attendance of 10,000 visitors, according to festival director Lisa Beranek.
“Friday night was the busiest ever seen, according to some of the old-timers,” she said.
Friday at the festival, now in its 23rd year, is generally considered the “locals’ night” but people came in from Anchorage, Homer, Seward and Girdwood to enjoy the music and community surrounding the river, Beranek said.
“Weather like this for three days in a row, it’s been awhile,” said Didier Lindsey, an Anchorage based wildlife photographer who makes the drive out to the festival annually. “It’s an awesome day.”
About the only clouds to obscure the park Saturday were around until about 8 a.m. before the temperature started its climb to reach 70 degrees by 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.
The festival is the Kenai Watershed Forum’s free celebration of the community’s 82-mile river and the more than 40 species of fish living within its ecosystem.
“This is not a fundraiser, it’s for the people by the people,” said Beranek, who credited the more than 200 volunteers that make it all happen along with finical support from many local companies.
There is plenty festival left with the Kenai Watershed Forum Kid’s Zone, the Salvaged Art Contest and a variety of fair food vendors through the 6 p.m. closing tonight. The day will continue the festival’s music lineup starting at 11 a.m. and close off with some “Alaskana” by 907’s performance from 4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m.