Festival 'wets' appetite for fun

Posted: Sunday, June 15, 2003

For those wanting to enjoy salmon and the Kenai River on Saturday, but not wanting to spend the weekend standing shoulder to shoulder with dozens of anglers, the Kenai River Festival was a family-oriented alternative.

Adults, children and even their pets ran and played on the lush green grass, soaking in the warm sun, cool breeze and all the food and festivities the event had to offer.

"It's been a lot of fun, and the educational potential has been tremendous" said event patron Gary Steen.

Steen said he enjoyed the presentation by Kristen Guinn from the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

"It was one of the best events here. I learned a lot from what she said and the eyes of the little ones you could just tell she had their full attention," Steen said.

He was referring to how Guinn stood with a live, great gray owl perched on her arm, while answering questions about the predatory bird, such as what it eats, where it lives and its conservation status in the wild.

A few tents away from the bird exhibition, children took turns spinning the wheel on "The Hazardous Game of Life."

The purposes of the game was to teach children that less than 1 percent of silver salmon fry ever make it to adulthood.


Chelsea O'Hara is enjoying the festival with her fish hat and red balloon.

Photo by McNair Rivers

"Oops, you've been crushed by ice flows," said volunteer Lisa Gibson to one of the kids.

The next girl to take a turn met a similar fate.

"Sorry, stream temperatures are rising too high," said Gibson to the child.

The next boy heard, "Uh-oh, you've been caught by a sport fisherman."

The children didn't seem to be disappointed by their unfortunate spins of the wheel, and every contestant said it was fun, regardless of the outcome.

"Children learn by having fun," Gibson said. "The wheel is a great tool for both."

Blubber gloves in ice water were how the Alaska SeaLife Center chose to educated kids on how marine mammals use fat to stay warm in the frigid arctic waters.


Irene Randolph browses over some of Elizabeth West's pottery at the Kenai River Festival on Saturday monring. Randolph said she has her own gallery in Homer and was visiting to buy some pottery for herself.

Photo by McNair Rivers

Youngsters "oohed" and "ahhed" the exhibit and gleaned useful information from the numerous mammal pelts and skulls the center had brought for educational purposes.

The Alaska Division of Emer-gency Services had long lines to ride in the Quake Cottage.

Kids squealed with laughter while they received serious shaking in the cottage that simulates an 8.0 magnitude earthquake.

After that jolt, kids read handouts and literature explaining that a real quake isn't fun and games and learned the ways to be safe and prepared for a quake of that intensity.

All the excitement caused many people to work up an appetite, but the river festival was prepared to meet the demands of hungry patrons.

There were salmon dinners, burritos, hot dogs, salads and a variety of cold and hot drinks.

Dagmar Mayer and her companion, a beagle named Sitka Frost, savored a midafternoon fish dish.

"The salmon was fantastic," Mayer said. "But my favorite part has been the live music. I really liked the drum group."

The drum group was the Kenaitze's own Chuda Cuya. They opened the festival with a performance Saturday and will play again at 11 a.m. today.

For those who feel a weekend isn't complete without doing a little shopping, the river festival also features vendors selling jewelry, crafts and artwork all made in Alaska.

Artist Diane Harrison was selling her paintings and sketches. Her pieces are scenes from Alaska locations and display her realistic style.

Many patrons couldn't believe the pictures were paintings and not photographs.

"I try to capture the scene just the way I see it," she said to one patron.

Shirley Orr was up from Arizona visiting family in town. She said the diversity of arts and crafts offered was "fantastic" and purchased a few unique items to take back to the Lower 48.

The Kenai River Festival continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. For more information, call 260-5449.

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