The life-sized carving of Les Anderson holding his world record King Salmon greets visitors at the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.
Tuesday, May 17 was indeed a day fit for a king, with sunshine and great spring weather, the first-ever "Les Anderson Day" hosted by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce was a well attended community event. The celebration was held in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the late Les Anderson's world record catch back in 1985. In addition to attendance by Les' wife, Claire Anderson, their children, grandchildren and even a great grandchild; close to 400 people shared in the festivities held at the Soldotna Visitor's Center.
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey presents Claire Anderson, wife of the late Les Anderson, with an official proclamation declaring May 17th as Les Anderson Day.
"Les Anderson Day" included a formal proclamation read by Soldotna City Mayor, Dave Carey who noted Anderson's impact on the Kenai River as we know it today. Echoing this sentiment was best captured by Anderson's friend, and cohort on the now-famous fishing adventure, Bud Loftsted. Loftsted, who was driving the boat the day Anderson landed the 97 lb. 4 oz. king salmon noted that Anderson had been hesitant to take his fish in for official weighing. "He (Anderson) said he didn't want to, because then all those people with their motorhomes will start to come down here to fish," commented Loftsted. Although Anderson's catch as the world record holder for the largest king salmon caught through hook and line still stands, some speculate that the fish' actual weight probably exceeded 100 lbs. and the fact that it had been out of the water several hours prior to being officially weighed impacted the final record number. Loftsted produced the original Spin-N-Glo lure Anderson had used on his line for the early morning fishing trip the two had taken on May 17th, 1985.
Loftsted retold the story of the world record catch to the crowd gathered for the celebration, as they feasted on grilled salmon, burgers, fresh roasted corn on the cob as well as chips, soda and salads donated by area restaurants. Lured by the free lunch, the crowd also enjoyed the entertainment provided by Alaska's own Hobo Jim.
Soldotna Chamber of Commerce 2005 Board of Directors unveil the custom carving of Les Anderson.
Also offering flavor to the event was the unique presentation by Connie Aurthur, who with her husband Neil, were tenants of Les and Claire Anderson upon moving to the area in the 1980's. Still carried in the original Ziploc bag he had sealed it in to protect it from the elements, were the handwritten instructions Anderson had written for the novice fisherman entitled "Instructions on How to Katch Big Kings". Written in simple prose, numbered 1 6, were the following: "1. Put Boat in Water, 2. Have Plenty of Coffee, 3. Relax mind, have one more cup, 4. Set hook, don't shoot gun, 5. Use big enuf net, 6. When all fails, take best fishermen on river along."
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Glaves agree Les Anderson Day was a success.
Whether they took Anderson's advice or not, taking advantage of the fine weather, and the opportunity to win the special fishing contest held in conjunction with Les Anderson Day festivities, were a number of anglers. The winning fisherman was 12 year old Joshua Johnson of Soldotna, who's 36.7 lb. king was caught on the Kenai river May 17th. Joshua is a home school student who's father is a professional fishing guide on the Kenai. The family used the day's outing as a field trip. For his efforts, Joshua won cash, a new fishing See KING, Page 3 rod and reel, as well as several gift certificates donated by area merchants. Other top entries in the fishing contest included a close second by Dale Mahoney with his 36 lb. king, Stan Simpson 33.7 lbs., Johnny Holleman 33 lbs., and John Gorski with a 32.8 lb. king.
A highlight of the Les Anderson Day festivities was the unveiling of a unique carving created by local artist Scott Hanson. With the assistance of friends, Hansen completed the rendition made of wood based on photographs provided to him in just two days. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors did the formal unveiling of the large statue that depicts Anderson holding his giant "hog". A permanent description is being affixed to the statue, that serves to welcome tourists and locals alike to the Soldotna Visitor's Center.
Although a final determination has yet to be made, community response to the Les Anderson Day celebration has been positive and many would like to see this become an annual event. During a break from his songs of Alaskana, Hobo Jim noted that it was nice to see local people before the rush of the summer tourist season kicks in. Soldotna Chamber Executive Director, Michelle Glaves, noted that from the perspective of the organization, it was obvious that it substantially increased the volume of people being exposed to their local visitor center. "Many people who had never had a reason to stop by and see the visitor center before came through the doors that day," commented Glaves. The center is home to the actual mount of the world record king salmon, as well as being a community resource for local activities and businesses.
According to Glaves, "Based on feedback, we (the board of directors) will discuss the continuation of Les Anderson Day. It seems to be a great way for the community to welcome the season before everyone gets busy with summer." she stated.
If you missed the day's events, you can still pick up a copy of the special section printed by the Peninsula Clarion featuring the original Clarion news article as it appeared in 1985, as well as salmon recipes submitted by area cooks and chefs. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce will be distributing copies at the Visitor's Center throughout the summer, or you can pick one up at the Clarion's offices at 150 Trading Bay Road in Kenai.
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