Let the sun shine, because the 10th annual Kenai River Festival will be held at the city of Kenai green strip Saturday and Sunday.
The festival, organized by the Kenai Watershed Forum, originally grew out of the desire to learn more about the river, how it affects residents in their daily activities, and how residents might keep the river healthy and productive for generations to come.
Robert Ruffner, with the watershed forum, said the festival is held so people can pause and think about how important the river is to the community and residents.
The kickoff activities begin today with a Dena'ina Heritage Program held at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. The Kenaitze Indian Tribe's women's drum group, "Heartbeat of Mother Earth," will perform outside the center at 3 p.m.
Saturday morning activities will begin with the Run for the River five-kilometer walk or run. Registration for the race is at 9 a.m., with a 10 a.m. start time. Donations, accepted in lieu of a fee, will go toward the Kenai River Festival and prizes will be given to men and women in age groups ranging from 12 to over 60.
The parade starts at noon. The star is a 29-foot salmon, made in the fashion of Chinese dragons; the operators inside will toss candy to the crowd.
The salmon this year has been newly made by Kenai artist Helen Brown. This parade will combine celebrating the introduction of the new salmon and marking the passing of the salmon used in previous years. The new "fish" is not the only element that has been added to the festival, Ruffner said.
"It continues to be an ever-expanding river festival," he said.
Music will fill the air, and vendors at booths will sell their wares, including food and drinks, pottery, jewelry, crafts and more.
Educational activities about the river and its inhabitants are important highlights at the festival.
"We need to continue to think beyond the banks of the Kenai River," Ruffner said.
Fritz Krause, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist from Anchorage, will come down with a semi-truck filled with learning-oriented activities. There also will be hands-on science, face painting, wooden fish models, stream programs and puppet shows five times during both days.
A live bird show features a merlin and a red-tailed hawk on both days and a golden eagle on Sunday.
A variety of agencies and organizations from the peninsula will have educational displays.
After winding down from the activities Saturday, a family contra dance will start at 6 p.m., making the evening complete.
Sunday, activities start all over again at noon with the Salmon Parade and music, booths and activities until 5 p.m.
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