River Festival celebrates the mighty Kenai

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2005


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  Wildlife that shares the River were on display at the Kenai River Festival.

Wildlife that shares the River were on display at the Kenai River Festival.

Two days of family fun, food, and festivities highlighted the 15th Annual Kenai River Festival. According to Kenai Watershed Forum Executive Director Robert Ruffner there were more vendors, educational booths, music groups, runners, and visitors than ever before. Some 30 vendors and exhibitors filled the green strip with wares and educational materials pertinent to the Kenai. Kids saw puppet shows, live birds of prey, met Caring For the Kenai contest winners and made painted fish models, hats, and had their faces painted.


KWF Executive Director Robert Ruffner guides Sluq'ah the 30ft Salmon for a swim through the River Festival goers.

Carrie Henson, a Studio 2B advisor for young women 11 to 17 years of age and her club members helped kids make and paint more than 600 fish hats. In one way or another all the activities pointed to appreciation of the mighty Kenai River, "I was surprised at how educational making fish hats became, some of the kids wanted to paint their hats in the actual colors of the salmon and knew what that really looked like," said Henson.


Kids enjoyed painting their own fish, making hats, and having their faces painted at the Kenai River Festival.

The Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) gave away 100 rods and reels through their "Hooked on Fishing" program. KRSA started the program four years ago with the intent of getting kids ages 6-14 their first fishing rod.

The popular Bird Treatment and Learning Center from Anchorage offered rare opportunities to see native birds of prey up close, "I've spent years as a wildlife photographer watching Bald Eagles, but I've only seen them up this close through a telephoto camera lens, this is as close as I have ever been to one and it's really a thrill," commented a visitor.

Over the last 15 years the celebration of the Kenai River has grown into a two day event with many changes, but one feature that has remained is the annual appearance of Sluq'ah the 30 foot salmon created as a tribute to the millions of fish that begin and end their life cycle in the Kenai River. Sluq'ah's annual run among the festival visitors takes 5 Young Marines and a seeing-eye human, "The Young Marines were fantastic this year, whatever we needed, whatever we asked them to do, they accomplished in quick order," said Joslyn Burke, one of the Festival's coordinators.

Mick Boyle took first place honors in the 5K Run for the River and Kaycie Schmelzenback was first in the women's division out of nearly 100 participants.

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