Expect more corporate executives, more U.S. senators, more entertainment and more money raised at next week's Kenai River Classic.
Those are the promises made by Kenai River Sportfishing Association executive director Brett Huber at Tuesday's Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Riverside House.
"The second run of kings are coming in, it's raining now to get it out of its system, and it's going to be the best Kenai River Classic ever," Huber told Soldotna's business leaders.
The event runs from July 6 through 8.
Besides Sen. Ted Stevens, Huber said there will be seven other U.S. senators, from states ranging from Maine to Missouri and Colorado to Kentucky.
"It gives the senators an idea what this great resource is all about," Huber said, gesturing through the picture windows to the Kenai River.
There will be several state dignitaries, including Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, who, Huber said, will be filling in for Gov. Tony Knowles.
For entertainment, Huber said, Hobo Jim will perform, along with country music singer Janie Fricke.
Another guest, sure to be well-known among the sporting set, is author Patrick McManus, author of such humor essays as "The Night the Bear Ate Goomba," "They Shoot Canoes, Don't They?" and "Real Ponies Don't Go Oink!"
"Personally I'm very excited he's coming," Huber said. "I grew up reading his books."
Corporate executives paying $3,000 a ticket will come from places including Yamaha, Lockheed Martin, General Electric and British Petroleum.
"We have 160 tournament entrants, who we will put in 40 guided fishing boats," Huber said.
But he said the real stars of the classic are the people of the Kenai Peninsula.
"Make no mistake, it's the volunteers who make the Kenai River Classic happen," he said. "We have over 100 volunteers this year. We have people who make coffee, move tables, are drivers and who provide security. These people genuinely enjoy participating in the classic."
Huber said the association expects to raise $700,000 this year.
"It's not the number of zeros that impresses me, but what we can do with the money," he said. "We've allocated a half-million dollars to preservation projects and fishery conservation this year."
One of the association's projects is public aquaculture education.
"You can fix a riverbank, but it doesn't mean anything if the public doesn't understand why it's there," Huber said.
"The hurdle isn't 'do you care about the river?' because you can't find anyone who doesn't. It's getting the message out."
At the lunch, Huber was presented with two $5,000 checks, one from Alaska Communications Systems and one from National Bank of Alaska, to go toward the association's projects. Huber also announced a new catch-and-release program the association is promoting for the largest king salmon caught during the classic.
The program, called "Release a hog, take home a trophy," will give anglers a $500 gift certificate if they release back into the river any king 52 inches or longer, while fishing with participating guides. Huber said the program is to encourage fishers to allow the biggest fish up river to spawn, producing more large kings. With the gift certificate, the anglers can get a reproduction of the fish they released to hang on their wall. The association has put $30,000 toward the project for this year.
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