Michael Doucet, fiddler, singer and composer for Cajun band BeauSoleil, performs with the six-member band at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair on Friday night.
Photos by McKibben Jackinsky, Ho
If you're "barn to be wild," it takes more than gray clouds and the threat of rain to dampen your enthusiasm. This weekend, the fun was shining bright at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair where the theme "barn to be wild" was custom-made for the waterproof crowd.
"Absolutely marvelous," were the two words Kenai Peninsula Fair Manager Lara McGinnis used to sum up the first half of the weekend as she dashed among the crowd Saturday.
In spite of Friday's occasional rain, McGinnis kept her eyes on a rainbow that appeared in the late afternoon. Eager fairgoers were just as optimistic, with an estimated 1,693 pouring through the gate on the first day of the annual three-day event. Waiting for them were displays of vegetables grown locally to immense proportions, intricately designed quilts, ribbon-winning baked goods, food to make the most stubborn appetite take notice, information on everything from dog-raising to snowmachine operating and entertainment of the four-legged and two-legged variety.
Dustin Pelekai, of Kenai, formerly from Hawaii, receives a henna tattoo at the fair Saturday.
Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Hom
Holding up their part of the fun for four-legged entertainers were the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs. With a three-year fair history, the porkers attracted a growing number of cheering admirers around their fenced-in racetrack.
"They draw more and more people," said Gina Wiste of Ninilchik, a member of the fair's board of directors. In fact, the pigs are taking their show on the road, traveling to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer later this month.
Gunnar Sverdrup, 4, of Soldotna, shows off his cowboy attire at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik on Saturday. With Gunnar is his mother, Eileen, and his sister, Emily, also 4.
Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Hom
"They're going to make Ninilchik famous." Wiste said, laughing.
Funds raised by the hard-running porkers helped pay for new bathrooms and other improvements at the Ninilchik fairgrounds.
"A big thanks goes to Katie Schollenberg, who cares for and trains the pigs," Wiste said. "They're her babies."
Anchor Point artist Linda Conrad was worried when she couldn't find the pen and ink drawing she'd entered in the fair's art competition.
"Have you looked at the grand prize winners?" McGinnis asked after a worried Conrad reported her artwork missing.
With relief, that's where Conrad found the piece, complete with a purple ribbon.
Drawn into the fun, young and old lined up to have their faces painted and their arms henna-tattooed. They sloshed gold pans around in a tub of water hoping to strike it rich and tested their fitness by entering the challenging river-to-river run.
Jefferson Klapak, 15, of Ninilchik, won the race with a time of slightly more than 40 minutes. He led a pack of more than a dozen runners from the fairgrounds south on the Sterling Highway, down to Deep Creek, north along the beach chilling their hot feet by splashing across the mouth of Ninilchik River and finally heading back to the fairgrounds.
"I liked running across the river," said Jefferson, a member of Ninilchik School's cross country team. "It was kind of cool."
Wrapping up the Kenai Peninsula portion of an Alaska tour that includes Seldovia, Homer and Talkeetna, the six-member Cajun band BeauSoleil of Louisiana performed on the fairground's big stage Friday night. After opening for Arlo Guthrie when the folk singer visited Alaska last year, BeauSoleil musicians let McGinnis know they were available for a return engagement. The audience was glad to have them, showing their appreciation by turning the grassy area in front of the stage into a well-used dance floor. In return, BeauSoleil kept the music going until after 11 p.m.
On Saturday, musicians were back on stage. A mid-day performance by Cupiit Yurartet, an Alaska Native dance group from Anchorage, won applause from the crowd. The day came to a close with two local favorites Three Legged Mule of Homer and the English Bay Band of Nanwalek.
Youngsters had an opportunity to show off their animal-raising skills Saturday during a livestock auction. An enthusiastic response from bidders helped some youngsters raise thousands of dollars for their hard work.
Also using the fair as an opportunity to get in the arena, peninsula cowboys and cowgirls took to their bulls and horses Saturday with a rodeo.
The fun continues today. The gate opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for youth and seniors, and free for kids under 5.
McKibben Jackinsky is a reporter for the Homer News.
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