Kenai will be awash in activity this weekend as the Kenai River Festival, the annual celebration of the Kenai Peninsula's most famous waterway, returns for its 12th year.
The festival is a way to highlight the importance of the river to the community and have some fun in the process, according to Robert Ruffner, director of the Kenai Watershed Forum.
"The real reason (for the festival) is that we spend the whole year being concerned about the river. We need a balance between concern and recreation," he said.
This year's festival will again feature a wide variety of river-themed cultural, educational and entertainment events.
"We have dedicated one 20-foot-by-50-foot tent solely for education purposes. The Department of Fish and Game brings down all their fancy toys. We're going to have a lot of fun," he said.
The idea is to get people thinking about the Kenai River in a fun way, without all the various conflicts and concerns that tend to dominate discussion of the river throughout the year.
"It's a time to set all that stuff aside and just have a party," Ruffner said.
The festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Kenai Green Strip, on Main Street Loop. Several large tents will be set up, allowing people to mingle through a flood of artwork, activity and food.
And the best thing about the festival, Ruffner said, is that it's free.
"There is no charge for anything," he said.
The festival is able to sustain itself because of the support it gets from numerous area businesses, volunteers and donors. This year's festival is sponsored by more than 40 businesses and countless individual volunteers and contributors.
The festival begins Saturday at 11 a.m., following the conclusion of the Run for the River, a 5-kilometer race through the streets of Kenai. The race begins at 10 a.m., with registration at 9 a.m.
At noon, a parade featuring the festival's famous 29-foot long salmon will entertain onlookers. After that, activities, food and entertainment will abound. From live music to face painting, from live bird displays to an Alaska salmon fry, the festival will offer a flood of activities.
Overall, the festival promises to offer a lot of people a lot of fun. More than 3,500 people attended last year's festival, and organizers said they're expecting at least that many this year.
"It's the first big event of the summer. Really, we're just going to have lots of fun," Ruffner said.
Activities will run through 7 p.m. Saturday and then again Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.
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