Amanda Eby, Sarah Mokracek, Lyla Marey and Ashley Eby dance to the Mabrey Brothers Band on Wednesday afternoon during the Summer Solstice Art and Music Festival at Diamond M Ranch. Wednesday was the longest day of the year.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Sometime between the moment the ink hits this page and these words reach your eyes, the days will start getting shorter.
Wednesday was the longest day of the year in this hemisphere, anyway and for some area residents, that meant enjoying as many of the day’s 19 hours, five minutes and eight seconds as possible.
KDLL’s annual Summer Solstice Art and Music Festival gathering, with dozens of vendors, 11 musical acts and games for kids and grown-ups, was a popular way to burn up those hours.
Price may have played a role in that. For the first time since the Kenai’s largest solstice fest began in 2001, admission to the Diamond M Ranch for vendors and revelers alike was free.
KDLL decided not to organize the festival this year, leaving it open to Diamond M Ranch owners Carrol and JoAnne Martin to keep the festival going.
According to Carrol, who busied himself making barbecue dishes Wednesday for the volunteering festival musicians JoAnne had recruited over the last few months, the pair didn’t want the event to disappear, so they opted for a quick-and-dirty approach to event planning.
The stage and dancers reflect in Breyer Luze's sunglasses early in the evenings festivities.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
“We decided to do it a lot less organized with a lot fewer people,” he said.
The lack of a fee for vendors helped fill the grounds, he said, and their numbers more than doubled as a result. The approach also led to some creative uses of the ranch’s resources.
For donations, revelers could participate in events such as a turkey poop toss or a cow chip throw, tug along through cow milking races or take a ride on a Diamond M horse. The logic behind the dirtier events was simple, Carrol said.
“We’ve got plenty of cow pies, and the cows need milking anyway,” he said.
Proceeds from the activities, which ranged in price from $1 for cow chip tossing to $6 for a horse ride, will still go to KDLL, Martin said.
“We thought more people would show up (to a free event), then maybe we’d even get more donations,” he said. “It will be more fun for sure.”
KDLL was still involved, however. Allen Auxier, the station’s manager, manned the beer garden booth at the event, selling glasses of porter and blonde from Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop, a craft ale watering hole just launched by Nikiski brewer Frank Kassik. The solstice festival represented the first public taste test for the ales.
Auxier, who sampled Kassik’s wares about a month ago, said solstice is a good day to introduce a new brew, as well as to listen to music, nosh hot dogs, meet with friends and otherwise enjoy the Alaska sunshine.
“It’s the longest day of the year the most opportunity to party.”
One Kenai resident, Charlie Disney, was experiencing his first summer solstice in Alaska on Wednesday, having moved to Kenai in November. He also was experiencing his first Kassik’s.
“It’s pretty good, not as full-bodied or creamy as it looks, but it doesn’t leave a long-lasting aftertaste,” Disney said. “Of course, my opinion and four dollars will buy you a beer.”
As Disney, himself a musician, enjoyed the sounds of the Possum Pickers under a sun that would stay up longer than he was used to, Bob Olson was ready to recall the Alaska solstice experience.
“I lived 21 years in Alaska, lived 21 years Outside and now I’m back for good,” Olson said.
Olson returned about a month ago and was one of the vendors selling Alaska crafts, collectables and doodads, including a knife with a 2-inch blade, which he called, “good for hunting very small game like Alaska mosquitoes.”
“I just like visiting with people, hearing stories, being out in the sun,” he said.
Other vendors offered kites, stained glassware, birdhouses, cribbage boards even massages and pet food.
Several groups took the opportunity to sell their wares for charity. Claire Rowley and Krikkit Holly, two students at Cook Inlet Academy, had baked goodies and pizza at their booth to help raise funds for a mission trip to South Africa in October.
Rowley, a 17-year-old lifelong Alaskan, said the solstice is always an event for her family.
“It was either this (solstice fest) or going to the beach, but its always a good time in the summer.”
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