State Trooper Safety Bear gives out hugs and tips on keeping kids safe at the annual Safety Day and Les Anderson BBQ.
They said the day was as warm and bright as Les Anderson’s smile as an estimated crowd of over 1,000 turned out for salmon and hot dogs at Soldotna Creek Park. Les Anderson will forever be remembered for catching the record King Salmon on an early spring day. But those who knew him also remember his smile and gentle spirit. “Anyone that ever met Les knew the warmth of that smile. It was the first thing you noticed and the last thing you’d see when you left because it was always there,” recalled Michelle Glaves, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce executive director. “I was working at Fotoquick the day he caught that fish and he brought the film into us. Then he kept coming back, getting more and more reprints, as he became the world famous fish man.” Soldotna Mayor David Carey remembered Les from the time he was a young boy growing up in Soldotna, “Back then Les was one of the few places where a young person could find employment and actually go through apprenticeship with him at Les’s Soldotna Y. Someone might catch a bigger fish someday and beat Les’s record, but no one will ever have a bigger or more generous heart than Les, and that’s why there will always be a Les Anderson Day in Soldotna,” said Carey.
Nancy Mitchell of State Farm Insurance presents Safety Poster contest winners with their awards at the annual Safety Day at Soldotna Creek Park.
According to Glaves, it took over 50 volunteers, including the famous barbeque duo of Duane Bannock and Charlie Pearce at the Enstar Grill, to feed more than 800 people over 500 hot dogs and 120 lbs of salmon plus salads and chips. “We ran out of food in about an hour and ten minutes,” said Glaves. Additionally, the Soldotna Police Department auctioned off 30 bicycles to kids under the age of 18 and the Kenai River Sportsfishing Association gave away 100 reconditioned fishing rods and reels to youth under the age of 16.
The City of Soldotna and SPD received community service awards from State Farm Insurance at the annual Safety Day and Les Anderson Barbeque.
The first Les Anderson Day was held two years ago to honor the 20th Anniversary of Les’s record catch. For the last ten years, Nancy Mitchell at State Farm Insurance in cooperation with local agencies has been sponsoring a Safety Day to encourage summer safety while enjoying the Kenai Peninsula. Through the years the event has provided safety checks for car seats and helmets for kids through the Safe Kid’s Coalition. This year Safety Day joined forces with the City of Soldotna and the Soldotna Chamber for the first Safety Day and Les Anderson community barbeque. “It was a way to make the event bigger and better than ever, and that is exactly what happened. The Safe Kids Coalition sponsored this year’s bike rodeo. Jane Fellman and Dr. Byron McCord inspected each bike and donated helmets to riders of any age. Under the State Farm tent we had 911 simulator practice and smoke alarm practice exhibits. The State Troopers joined in with the State Farm Good Neigh Bear for finger printing of children under 9 years-of-age,” said Mitchell
Some 25 vendors participated in the event, including the 4-H Club with their annual tree sale and exhibit on animal husbandry. The trees were sold out before noon. Central Emergency Services participated at the event in spite of having to respond to a call shortly after the event got under way. “Their new sprinkler house was quite a hit as were the Jumpy houses provided by the Peninsula Oilers Association,” added Mitchell. The day began with the posting of the Colors by the VFW and opening remarks from Borough Mayor John Williams, followed by the MS Walk and Torch Run.
In the annual safety poster contest the Grand Prize winner of $100 was Elisha Hollers. Paul and Hope Steffensen won $50 for their age groups. Other safety awards were given to the Soldotna Police Department, Alaska State Troopers, City of Soldotna, KPB Emergency Response, U.S. Coast Guard Kenai Detachment, C.E.S., Kenai Fire Department and the Safe Kids Coalition. “To all those terrific people thank you for your time, energy, and safety of others,” said Nancy Mitchell.
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