For America’s 238th birthday on Friday, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce has a variety of activities in store for all ages at the Kenai Fourth of July Festival.
Kicking off the festivities is the parade through town at 11 a.m. Johna Beech from the Kenai Chamber of Commerce said 33 groups have already signed up for the parade. The deadline to enter the parade is 10 a.m. Friday. The parade route starts down Fidalgo Avenue then turns left on Willow Street to the Kenai Spur Highway and ends at the Main Street Loop.
Beech said they typically get 75 to 90 parade entries and would expect about that many by Friday. Dolfika Farms family has been instrumental in building intricate floats for the parade, she said. Last year a float entered by Peak Oilfield Services won the overall parade award. Spectators should find a spot early because a large crowd is expected to line the parade route, Beech said.
“It should be a large turnout with thousands,” Beech said. “We are expecting beautiful weather in Kenai.”
The party continues from noon to 4 p.m. with more than 36 vendors at the green strip park on Main Street Loop, Beech said. At least 10 food vendors from hot dogs to barbecue, and seven artisans will be on site, she said. A wide variety of vendors will be at the festival — including the Far North roller derby team, political candidates, information on ballot measures, and the Tustumena Boy Scouts, to name a few she said.
Special guest Dave Thompson, known as “Bard of the North” will recite patriotic poems on the main stage from 12:30-1 p.m. Thompson will also speak at the Kenai Historical Cabin Park from 2-4 p.m.
Kenai Historical Society member Joe Harris said the society invited Thompson to one of their meetings and he entertained an audience for 90 minutes reciting notable poems from Robert Service and Robert Frost, as well as “Flander’s Fields.”
“(Thompson) is an amazing speaker and an interesting individual,” Harris said. “He is a Vietnam veteran who writes poems and speaks from the heart.”
There will be plenty of activities for the kids with a carnival midway, Matti’s Farm will have petting zoo with pony and hayrides and the Kenai Fire Department will have fire games, Beech said.
Kenai firefighter Tommy Carver said two fire trucks will be in the parade and another four firefighters will set up a truck at the park for a hose race game where kids take a fire hose, run and aim to spray a target. Carver said it is a fun game for the kids that usually attracts a long line of participants.
For the adults, DJ Cheerio from KO Entertainment will fill the air with music and there will be a beer garden with hops from Kassik’s Brewery on tap, Beech said.
One new vendor to the Fourth of July Festivities will be a foam-fighting ring hosted by the live-action fantasy role-playing combat club. Aundrea Moulton, a member of the Kenai chapter of Amtgard of the Frozen Coast Alliance will be on hand with other club members to introduce the game to kids and teach them safe fighting tactics. For a $1 kids can battle their friends in the ring with foam swords, she said.
The club meets at Beaver Creek Park every Sunday at 1 p.m. and is free and open to all, Mouton said.
Another event on the Fourth of July weekend is the Firecracker softball tournament Saturday and Sunday at the Steve Shearer Fields. The Kenai Softball Association hosts the annual coed tournament with 16 teams battling for the Gavin K-B Memorial Championship.
While many Alaska Fourth of July celebrations do not have fireworks, Beech said the amount of entertainment planned should keep everyone happy.
“We could not put this together without the support of our sponsors,” she said. “It should be a great day and fun for everyone.”
Reach Dan Balmer at email@example.com.