A healthy crowd of Kenai Peninsula residents packed Soldotna High School on Saturday for the eighth annual Village Fair, a community event designed to promote positive health and safety issues.
Organized by Healthy Com-munities-Healthy People, the event featured a wide variety of health-related booths, activities and games for participants of all ages. Central Peninsula General Hospital offered full-blown health screenings -- complete with blood work, eye exams and hearing tests -- while people with less time were free to wander among the various booths full of helpful information on everything from weight loss to mental health awareness.
The hospital's health screening proved to be one of the day's most popular events. The screening offered people a chance to have blood drawn and analyzed for $35 -- a bargain compared to the nearly $400 a similar battery of tests would normally cost. According to health fair coordinator Michelle McKay, the screening attracted quite a large amount of participants this year.
"We have more this year than last year already," McKay said, 45 minutes before the screening closed.
McKay said more than 220 people allowed themselves to be subjected to a battery of tests that included a blood pressure exam, height-weight analysis and the blood test itself -- complete with two separate blood draws.
One of those people was Kenai's Rick Resnick, who said he has been attending the fair annually as a way of keeping an eye on his general health without having to visit a doctor.
"I've done this probably since they initiated it," Resnick said after having blood taken. "I use it for a year-to-year checkup."
Resnick said he doesn't normally visit a physician, but that he does feel it's important to keep an eye on his health -- even if it means having a little blood drawn.
"To tell you the truth, it's not the easiest thing in the world for me, but it goes pretty quick," he said. "They're getting pretty good at it by now."
McKay said the screening isn't intended as a substitute for regular visits to a physician, but the tests can be a way to help people keep an eye on key indicators of general health and fitness.
"At least they're here taking an active role in their health," she said.
Although many visitors to the Village Fair chose to participate in the health screenings, many more simply moved from booth to booth, checking out information and chatting with those staffing the exhibits.
Mari Auxier, right, laughs as Lori Andersen of Central Peninsula General Hospital prepares to draw blood at one of the fair's testing stations.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Activities included a community dialogue on prescription pain medication, information on topics such as the dangers of smoking, effective weight loss techniques and coping with brain injuries.
The community dialogue on prescription medication actually began Friday evening and continued Saturday. According to facilitator Dan Chay with the Center for Community Mediation and Dia-logue, the event gave the public a chance to share information and ideas on both the use and abuse of prescription drugs in the community.
"It's going really well," Chay said Saturday. "I even heard from (Soldotna Police Chief Shirley Gifford) that one of her officers was finding out things he had never even heard about."
Many of Saturday's events were geared toward promoting positive health and safety for children. Most prominent was a free DNA "fingerprinting" station staffed by members of Kenai and Soldotna police departments.
According to Soldotna Police officer Greg Landeis, parents could use the DNA kit to have a permanent record of their child's individual genetic makeup.
"It's a way for parents to have a positive identification for their kids," Landeis said.
He said the procedure was a quick and painless alternative to procedures police used in the past, such as fingerprinting or photo identification. He said a foam applicator is used to take a swab from a child's cheek. That material is then placed on a small plate, sealed and given to the parents to keep as a permanent record of their child's DNA.
The genetic information is not used by police or any other government agencies and is designed to only be used when a child goes missing.
"God forbid if a child is abducted, this is a way to have a positive identification of that child," Landeis said.
"It's not a pleasant thing to think about, but it's something all kids should do."
Landeis said he was pleased by the response the procedure was getting.
"Pretty much nobody says no," he said.
The DNA booth wasn't the only one getting plenty of attention Saturday. In fact, a steady flow of traffic moved through the school's gym and commons area throughout the entire day, and parking was scarce outside.
According to Jane Stein of Healthy Communities-Healthy People, the 2003 Village Fair was one of the most successful yet.
"I feel just great about it," Stein said amid a crowd of enthusiastic fairgoers. "We've got a neat crowd and a neat flow. It's just a great chance to look at what our community is all about."
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