The Kenai Peninsula State Fair opens tomorrow and runs through the weekend. The annual event offers a variety of entertainment for people of all ages.
Clarion file photo by Joseph Rob
After many months of preparation, people involved in putting on the Kenai Peninsula State Fair are ready to unwind, and they hope fellow peninsula residents join them.
The fair, with the theme "Time to Unwind," is Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Ninilchik Fairgrounds.
"It's shaping up great. We're ready to rock and roll," said Lara McGinnis, fair manager. "I've got a few more things on my hit list to do, but so far it's here, we're ready."
All the fair standards are back this year, like the rodeo, Junior Market Livestock program and exhibitions. Even though they happen year after year, that doesn't mean the fair staples have lost their appeal, McGinnis said.
Exhibition entries, such as quilts, produce, baked goods and art, continue to grow.
"Believe it or not, it's more popular than it ever was," McGinnis said. "At the end of each year I write out close to 1,000 checks (for winners)."
McGinnis said the exhibition hall got a face-lift this year with redone floors, carpeting and a paint job. The day to turn in exhibition materials is today from noon to 7 p.m.
The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs will entertain fair visitors again this year.
Clarion file photo by Joseph Rob
For cowboys and girls, or those who just like to watch them work, there's plenty of riding action to be had, including a "Beauty and the Beast" event. The "beauty" refers to barrel riding.
"The beauty comes in because it takes a lot of finesse to run those barrels without hitting them and knocking them over," McGinnis said.
The "beast," being bull riding, needs no explanation.
The peninsula fair marks the final competition before the state event in Palmer.
"There's a lot of competition coming down from Palmer," McGinnis said. "And this is our home field. If there was ever going to be a home-field advantage or an upset, this would be it."
As for the Junior Market Livestock program, the 4-H participants are "as lively and energetic as ever," McGinnis said. Along with raising their animals for auction, 4-Hers volunteer at the fairgrounds at least once a week, she said.
"They are a powerful force behind the fair."
A runaway favorite at last year's fair is returning this year the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs.
"It was a lot of fun," McGinnis said of the squealing sprinters. "It was great entertainment. It just takes a lot of money to put it on."
For humans wanting a little exercise, registration for the River to River Run will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with the race beginning at 10:30 at the fairgrounds.
For kids, there will be plenty of opportunities to expend energy, as well as creativity. Clown classes with Raggedy Ann will give kids a chance to play and paint at the same time.
Displays at the fair feature the Kenai Peninsula's best produce, arts and crafts.
Clarion file photo
"The kids get to do hands-on clown makeup and all that kind of fun stuff," McGinnis said.
Dana Smith and his dog Lacy are sure to be kid-pleasers with their acrobatics.
Home Depot will offer birdhouse-making workshops, and a crew from the Imaginarium will be on hand with a "Things that Fly, Flop and are Flung" show.
The miniature golf game has been expanded and there's a trampoline activity.
"Kids will get up there and the trampoline will just shoot them to the sky," McGinnis said.
For kids under 6, there are sawdust-pile treasure hunts held periodically throughout the weekend and everyone is invited to get sticky in egg tosses.
Friday is especially geared to kids, as it's Family Fun Day, where families get in for $20. The reason for the special admission price is twofold, McGinnis said.
"One is to give families a break, and, two, we'd like to get people here on Fridays," she said. "... A lot of people wait until after work and we've got a lot of great stuff going on all day."
Other noteworthy events are a fireworks display Friday at 10:30 p.m., with the best viewing spot being the Ninilchik beach, and the fair parade, starting at 10:15 a.m. Saturday at the Inlet View Cafe.
And, of course, what fair would be complete without the smorgasbord of tempting treats offered from vendors?
"We've got some great vendors set up to come," McGinnis said. "A lot of great first-year vendors are coming that are really going to be cool."
With all the preparations wrapping up, McGinnis hopes crowds descend to enjoy the fun made possible by a year's worth of work, especially since a good fair turnout this year means an even better fair next year.
"It takes pretty much our whole gate from the previous year just to be able to put on the same fair at the same level," McGinnis said.
Sponsorships also are invaluable to the fair, and more are always needed, McGinnis said.
Come Friday, what will really be needed is people to come enjoy themselves.
"Just come on out and have a great time," McGinnis said. "We're looking forward to seeing you."
Admission is $7 for adults 13 and older, $5 for seniors 60 and older, $4 for youths age 6 to 12 and free for kids under 6. Three-day passes are $17 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for youths.
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