With some 19 hours of daylight rounding out this month, June in Alaska is a good time to celebrate. This weekend several events in honor of Monday's Summer Solstice will take place around the Kenai Peninsula to take advantage of, and rejoice in, the midnight sun.
Here's a peek at some of the Peninsula's most popular annual events:
Nikiski's yearly solstice celebration's name says it all.
"It's a way for the community to get together and celebrate the summer and celebrate shaking the winter rust off and socializing," said Rachel Parra, recreation director at the center.
Sponsored by North Peninsula Recreation, Nikiski Fire Department and the Nikiski Fire Fighter's Association, the event starts off in the morning with a three-mile and five-mile fun run. In the afternoon, there will be food, carnival and organizational booths.
"The Nikiski Fire Department is running all kinds of water races and hose games," she said.
Parra said there would be bouncy houses and big inflatable slides for the children, as well as a cork shoot and beanbag toss. On Saturday afternoon the age-appropriate games will begin, like the sack and foot races and a water balloon toss.
"At the end of each game we give away bikes and helmets for that age group," Parra said.
The soundtrack for the event will be provided by local musicians like the Rizzo family and other country-inspired groups, Parra said.
And if that isn't enough fun there are always the free giveaways. Everyone who attends the festival gets a chance to win one of the prizes, which include some big ticket items like patio furniture and a four-person paddle boat.
"It's a big social event," Parra said. "A lot of people you don't normally see on a daily basis celebrate what's happening in the community and with each other."
Family Fun in the Midnight Sun begins at noon Saturday at the Nikiski Pool facilities.
Contra dancing, gladiator games, pool paddling, and lots of live music are just a few of the things on the docket for this year's Summer Solstice Music Festival at Diamond M Ranch.
"Throughout it all is the memory of Matti Martin who was really active and a big part of the activities last year," said John Steckel, president of the Kenai Bed and Breakfast Association that sponsors the event.
Mathias "Matti" Martin, 9, was killed last year at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds after being fatally injured while showing a dairy cow.
"The whole theme is around what Matti would've liked to do," Steckel said, explaining various activities like a "large bungee cord catapult that we're going to be launching old fruit and vegetables into the field for the horses and llamas."
Particularly poignant will be Matti's Cowchip Triathlon, an all-ages event that includes inner tubing, biking, and running. Steckel said Matti won the event last year barefoot.
There will be 12 hours of live music at the festival provided by local favorites such as Robb Justice, Mike Morgan, JD Uponen and Hobo Jim. The band Big Bottom, of Anchorage, will be rocking the event later in the evening with its 80s hair metal rock.
"Rain or shine it will be a fun place to come out and spend the day," he said.
On Sunday, Peninsula Grace Brethren Church will hold a Christian music festival in conjunction with its outside church services for Father's Day. The service is at 11 a.m. and music goes from noon to 8 p.m. at Diamond M Ranch.
The Summer Solstice Music Festival and Matti's Farm Fest is $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under.
Further up the highway, the Moose Pass community wants fellow Kenai Peninsula residents to come celebrate solstice it's own special way.
"Come over and have some small town fun in Moose Pass," said local Erin Knotek.
The event held Saturday and Sunday, will have food booths, a beer garden, vendors, games and music.
"It's definitely a family oriented event and it's festive," said Knotek. "There's a sense of Alaska, it's very Alaskan."
The 32nd annual solstice celebration is the community's main fundraiser to support the schools, charity and even a visit from Santa Claus at Christmas.
Music from bands the Smile Ease, 150 Grit and Pretty Damn Close Band will help to entertain crowds on Saturday. Sunday is the raffle day, with prizes like a fishing trip, handcrafted bowl, and other locally donated items.
"We're not the only ones enjoying it. People are actually looking forward to it," said Dawn Campbell, a festival organizer.
Knotek said that while everyone is welcome, pets would have a better time at home.
The celebration in Moose Pass is on Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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