Fair off to a soggy start

Rain, wind don’t dampen organizers’ hopes for a banner year

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2006


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  Comedian-magician Sukuma Avery takes $20 from a trusting Stuart Prisk of Kenai, promising to turn it into $50 or $100. The crowd, including Prisk, got a good laugh when Avery's magic turned it into $1. Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

A little mud on their snouts wasn't enough to slow down the Kenai Peninsula racing pigs in a showdown Friday.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

“Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen,” Kenai Peninsula State Fair Manager Lara McGinnis shouted to the crowd minutes before the Kenai Peninsula racing pigs made their debut at the opening day of the state’s “biggest little fair.”

McGinnis could have been talking about Friday’s weather.

Thursday, sun shone on the Kenai Peninsula, giving McGinnis, fair vendors and entertainers hope that forecasts for a chance of rain on Friday were incorrect. But such was not to be.

Friday dawned with the sun hidden behind a heavy layer of dark clouds. As the day progressed, rain and wind increased, causing an early end to the first of the three-day annual event, and reducing the traditional Friday crowd of 1,600 to only 800, according to McGinnis.


Abby Pettit, 5 months, of Palmer, is snug and warm in spite of the wind and rain on the opening day of the Kenai Peninsula State Fair on Friday. She brought her mom, Amy Pettit, along.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

For those who braved the elements, there were smiles and fun to go around.

Comedy magician Sukuma Avery’s slight of hand and good humor sparked enthusiasm as he worked the crowd gathered in front of the main stage.

“Does anyone have $100? How about $50?” Avery asked his rain-soaked, but smiling audience. When his request went unanswered, Avery said, “OK, this is Ninilchik. How about $20?”

Stuart Prisk of Funny River took the bait, waving a $20 in the air for Avery.

“How about I turn this into a $50 or maybe $100?” Avery asked, his question drawing loud cheers of encouragement.


"Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen," shouts Kenai Peninsula Fair Manager Lara McGinnis before the Kenai Racing Pigs dart out of the chute.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

A few “magic” moments later, Prisk’s $20 has become a $1, bringing laughter from the onlookers, including Prisk, and keeping the audience seated until Avery completed the trick to everyone’s satisfaction.

Indoor exhibits offered a warm place for people to duck out of the rain and wind, and view livestock or examine the handiwork of talented peninsula residents. Al and Lauren Wakefield of Kenai took the opportunity to examine the chainsaw-carving skill evident in “Goofy Moose” by Ralph Stover of Homer.

“Wonderfully creative, fun a great caricature wow,” the judges wrote of Stover’s award-winning creation.

The inside exhibit space also provided an alternative location for Chris Fontaine and Shay Hoffman, when the strong wind threatened to topple their tent for the Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic.


Comedian-magician Sukuma Avery takes $20 from a trusting Stuart Prisk of Kenai, promising to turn it into $50 or $100. The crowd, including Prisk, got a good laugh when Avery's magic turned it into $1.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Eventually, the weather took its toll. Vendors began putting away their wares hours before the 9 p.m. gate closure. By 8:30, McGinnis had made alternative arrangements for two musical acts scheduled to perform on the fair’s main stage. Zilla, an improvisational band from Colorado, was redirected to Duggan’s Waterfront Pub in Homer. Las Vegas musician R.B. Stone and his four-member band were rebooked to the Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch.

McGinnis marveled at the fast and accommodating response from peninsula businesses when the adverse weather caused her to regroup.

She acknowledged the hotels that held rooms open for fair guests in case they were needed, and thanked Duggan’s and the Clam Shell for their willingness to open their stages for fair-funded performers.


Al and Lauren Wakefield of Funny River Road admire the prize-winning "Goofy Moose" carved by Ralph Stover of Homer. Judges gave Stover's creation a champion award in the woodworking category.

Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

“This community really comes forward to help to the best of its ability,” McGinnis said.

One thing untouched by the rain was hope for a drier weekend. In the fair office, board members and volunteers reviewed plans for Saturday morning’s parade and other activities scheduled Saturday and Sunday.

“We’ll see you tomorrow at the fair,” Stone told the Clam Shell audience as the band wrapped up its performance and a very wet day.

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