Firsts for the Kenai River Festival

It will be a year of firsts for the 2014 Kenai River Festival, June 6-8, between the trees at Centennial Park in Soldotna.


Centennial Park will be the first location where the banks of the Kenai river viewable from every location within the festival grounds.

“The river is what the festival is all about,” said Director for Kenai River Festival, Lisa Beranek.

In keeping with the sustainable focus of the celebration, all vendors and artisans are required to carry compostable service-ware this year, Beranek said.

Composting receptacles will be clearly marked with what can be disposed in them, Beranek said. Education is the focus this round, she said.

“Were taking the environmental stuff up a notch,” Beranek said. “It is a chance to show that large festivals don’t have to generate huge amounts of waste.”

Salmon dissection and building river-rockets are two of many hands-on activities in the Kenai Watershed Forum kid’s zone. An extensive artisan market of local vendors, and the annual Run for the River, June 7, can be enjoyed by families of all ages, Beranek said.

The Kenai River Festival is very much a community event, Beranek said. Timed for early June, “before the rubber hits the road,” the celebration normally draws upwards of 5,000 Kenai Peninsula residents, she said.

This year Kenai Watershed Forum teamed up with the City of Soldotna, Beranek said. As a result of an emphasis on safety, some of the park’s daily operations will be suspended, she said.

There will be no camping available Friday and Saturday, and no pets will be allowed on the premises, Beranek said. The park’s boat launch will also be closed off.

Kenai River Festival Entertainment coordinator Robb Justice pieced together a lineup of 27 statewide bands, in sync with the “roosty, Americana,” music enjoyed by members of the Kenai community.

Tyson Davis, singer and lead guitar player for Blackwater Railroad, performing Friday evening, said the band is looking forward to busting out their traditional foot-stompers for some new faces.

The group, made up of a collection of lower 48 transplants, has built a strong following in Seward since they formed a year and a half ago, Davis said. But, it will be their first time performing in the central Kenai area, he said.

The group will be playing songs off their album “Bottom of the Bay,” released two weeks ago, Davis said.

Davis said the band plans to stay for the Denali Cooks, who are making the trip from Alaska’s Interior for the show.

The Denali Cooks, who have been playing together for 24 years, will be playing a mix of their biggest hits, “Mushrooms and Bananas”, “It’s Good” and “Shine,” and plenty of new material, said band member Larry Zarella.

Zarella said they are style is veering toward a new genre he likes to call “Feel-good.” Based in rhythm and blues, but not rock or folk, the Cooks like to play music that connects with their audience.

Rounding out the list will be one of Alaska’s most up and coming groups, the Super Saturated Sugar Strings, Justice said.

With environmental and nature-themed lyrics the band is looking forward to tying in their musical style with the goal of the festival, to keep the Kenai River clean, said Carlyle Watt singer for the Super Saturated Sugar Strings.

Watt said the audience can always expect a high-energy performance, driven by upbeat percussion, aimed at getting people moving.

“It will be our first time playing at the Kenai River Festival, “ Watt said. “We are looking forward to meeting everyone on the peninsula.”

A full list of bands and activities for the Kenai River Festival can be found at


Kelly Sullivan can be reached at


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