Fourteen years ago, Peggy Mullen and a small group of volunteers decided our community should take a day to celebrate and appreciate the mighty Kenai River that has given human communities so much for so many millenniums. Along with a few agencies and groups concerned about preserving the River, they held the first Kenai River Festival. The mascot of the first festival was a 29' salmon that led a parade of children.
The idea caught on and rapidly out grew the facilities in Soldotna. A few years ago the organization of the event was turned over to the Kenai Watershed Forum, which expanded and added to the celebration. This year, still led by the 29't salmon mascot, over 150 volunteers were needed to work the two-day event which is now held at the Kenai Green Strip. Over 35 artisans offered their crafts, and more than 15 groups and organizations participated in educational booths that offered information on everything from how to catch a fish, to launching into outer space. Many local musicologists including Hobo Jim, Bunny Swan-Gease, Katie Skrha and popular groups like Southern Comfort made this year's event a family music festival as well. Winners of the 5-K "Run for the River" were Kate Pearson and Mario Bird with times of 21 minutes, 35 seconds, and 16 minutes, 15 seconds.
Kids paint their own fish at the Boys & Girls Club tent at the Kenai River Festival.
The three world class educational facilities on the Peninsula, The Challenger Learning Center, Seward Sealife Center, and the Islands & Oceans visitors center in Homer, were present at the festival, "I think the kids started putting it all together with us all being here that there is a link between the oceans, the rivers, and even outer space," said Tamara Wear, lead flight director at the Challenger Center. According to Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum, a great time was had by all and everything went off without a snag due to the great job organizing the event by Josselyn Burke. Two days prior to the Festival, Burke was hospitalized with appendicitis, but was back on her feet in time to attend both days of the festival.
Kids enjoy a puppet show that teaches them about caring for the River at last weeks Festival.
9-year-old Aaron Hull of Soldotna, leads the 29ft Salmon up stream at the 14th Kenai River Festival.
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