Aviators from around the peninsula will be buzzing around the Twin Cities on Saturday for the fifth annual Kenai Peninsula Air Fair, an event that's grown from an informal gathering of local pilots into a community event for both land- and air-based aviation enthusiasts.
"This has grown from a small poker run for pilots into a big community event," said Mary Bondurant, assistant to the Kenai airport manager and organizer of this year's fair.
Bondurant said the poker aspect of the event isn't as emphasized as in years past. Instead, the event has become more a way to celebrate aviation and pilots and to expose the general public to the world of flight.
The event kicks off Saturday at 8 a.m. with a breakfast at Soldotna Municipal Airport. There, pilots hoping to participate in the fair can register, and the public can help support a worthy cause by paying $5 for breakfast. All proceeds from the morning go toward a scholarship fund created by the Experimental Aircraft Association.
From there, pilots who register for the fair take off and fly to airports around the peninsula. The idea for them is to pick up a playing card at each place they stop.
The games is just like poker: whoever has the best hand at the end of the day wins a prize.
Last year there were 66 pilots who participated in the event, the largest turnout to date.
However, while the poker event is what draws many pilots in, the public is invited to come to the fair to look at the planes themselves.
In conjunction with the fair, Saturday also doubles as Military Appreciation Day. Military aircraft will be on display at Kenai Municipal Airport, and people will have a chance to view a number of planes up close. The military appreciation event begins at 2 p.m.
At 1 p.m., a barbecue will be held at the airport. Bondurant said that's when people can come out, grab a bite to eat and gaze at airplanes both on the ground and in the air.
"It's open to the public. People can just come and look at the displays if they're not flying themselves," she said.
The cost for the barbecue is $5; just attending the event to look at the planes is free. Bondurant said there also will be live Dixieland music for people to enjoy.
Anyone wishing to register to participate in the fair may do so by calling the airport. Early registration is $20, while the cost on the day of the event is $25. For more information on the fair, visit the airport's Web site at www.kenaiairport.com.
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