Newest boom market takes its place in annual celebration

Industry day to add tourism

Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2000

This year's annual Industry Appreciation Day will have a new twist.

In addition to the traditional celebration of the oil and commercial fishing industries, the Aug. 26 event will incorporate another staple of Kenai Peninsula industry -- tourism. The decision to include tourism as a part of the day this year met with unanimous approval by the 25-member Industry Appreciation Day board recently.

Justine Polzin, executive director for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased with the decision.

"The chamber is about commerce and industry," Polzin said.

Polzin said the Soldotna chamber has been involved with the industry appreciation festival for the last few years. She said the chamber has had a small sponsorship of the event and showed its support by staffing a booth. She said this year the Soldotna chamber plans to work with the Kenai chamber to distribute brochures of area tourist attractions.

Jack Brown, a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assem-bly, co-founded Industry Appreci-ation Day with Aaron Goforth. Brown is now the chairman of the Industry Appreciation Day board. The event is held each summer as a means of promoting goodwill between two of the peninsula's top industries -- oil and commercial fishing.

"As an assembly member, I thought there was a problem between fish and oil," Brown said. "But since we started the event, there are no problems between the two."

Kenai Mayor John Williams said he is proud of how Industry Appreciation Day has grown since its origin nearly 10 years ago as a celebration of just the oil industry.

"It just keeps getting better and better," he said.

Williams encouraged politicians to come to the event and said to bring poster board and watermelon.

In the past, such political figures as Gov. Tony Knowles, Rep. Don Young and Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski have attended the event.

Brown said he believes events like this are important because they remind businesses that they are supported by residents. Brown said he hopes this will make the industries more comfortable and encourage them to buy and employ locally.

Brown also said he believes peninsula residents owe industry a debt of thanks.

"It is a good opportunity to honor them," he said. "It is a fun day for the entire community."

Brown said that with the inclusion of the tourism industry, he expects this year's celebration to be even more popular than last year.

"For a single-day event, this attracts as many or more people than any other," he said.

What brings many people to Industry Appreciation Day are the prizes and food. Brown said fellow assembly member Tim Navarre is prepared to serve 5,000 meals, all at no cost to participants. Any donations will go to offset the cost of food.

Brown said he expects children will enjoy the event as well.

"(There will be) great prizes this year," he said. "We're giving away a bicycle."

Brown added that he wants children to go home from Industry Appreciation Day with more than just prizes. He said he hopes they will remember the educational aspects presented by the 30 to 40 nonprofit organizations that will staff booths at the event.

Adults also will have chances to win prizes, including two round-trip tickets to Hawaii. Adult also can participate in softball games, although perhaps the bigger competition is the mayor's chili cook-off.

"If you win, you get bragging rights and a huge trophy," Brown said.

Past trophy-winners include the Kenai Fire Department, the Lions Club and the Moose Lodge. Williams said all chili must be cooked in a certified kitchen and entrants must submit 4 gallons.

Brown said he hopes all the good cheer doesn't distract from the seriousness of the event. One of Brown's biggest concerns is the success of commercial fishing, which he said has had some rough years.

"If our support helps keep a cannery open, that's what it's all about," he said.

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