Christopher Smith of Ninilchik flies high on the Jumpin' Alaska's bungee trampoline ride at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik on Friday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
“Higher ... higher ... higher!” shouted the crowd watching Christopher Smith of Ninilchik fly more than 20 feet into the azure sky, performing multiple flips with each leap Friday at the Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik.
Smith had paid his $5 to take a turn on Jumpin’ Alaska, a new event at this year’s fair where patrons wear a harness hooked into bungee cords attached to two vertical poles and seemingly defy gravity by bouncing on a giant trampoline.
“It was awesome,” Smith said. “It really brings me back to the good old days of jumping on the trampoline when I was smaller.”
The person jumping is the sole source of energy for the ride, which can be physically taxing for those putting in as much effort as Smith did.
“It was a lot of fun, but a good workout too. My legs are jelly,” said an out-of-breath Smith while wiping beads of sweat from his brow.
Having to exert a bit of energy didn’t seem to detract from the ride’s appeal, though, as there was a long line of children and adults waiting to take their turn within hours of the fair opening Friday.
“It’s going pretty good,” said Jumpin’ Alaska employee Jennifer Goodwin. “The kids absolutely love it. They like the idea of being able to do flips without breaking their neck.”
Other fair rides also saw strong patronage, with more than one person being bucked off the mechanical bull ride, while not far away the 4-H horse ride was a little calmer.
All the excitement drew a hearty appetite in many fair-goers and there was plenty of food to choose from cotton candy, reindeer sausage, caramel apples and turkey legs, to name a few.
“That’s what I love about the fair all the good eats. I come every year and try to eat my way from one end of the fair to the other,” said Robert Davis of Kenai.
Of a similar mindset to Davis, Isaac Treat of Ninilchik said you can smell in the air the goodness of all the eats and treats.
Turkey legs cook on a grill while in the background Isaac Treat of Ninilchik purchases a funnel cake from a food vendor.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
“Fairs always smell like good food and they have stuff you can’t get anywhere else like funnel cakes. I always try to get at least one every year,” he said while squirting ketchup onto one of the fried confections.
After eating, several people tried to walk off a few calories by exploring the numerous vendor booths at this year’s fair, and the vendors themselves were more than happy to interact with the public.
“We like to talk to people and this is a way to talk about our product. The fair is a good way to get information out,” said Henry Henson of Wasilla, working a booth for Tahitian Noni a liquid dietary supplement made from a pear-like fruit from Polynesia.
Fair patrons could feel the buzz literally with what they saw at the Bee Keepers Educational Exchange of the Peninsula.
Children placed their hands on an observation bee hive that vibrated from all the insect activity, while their parents perused the bee products and byproducts for sale, such as hives, honey and bee wax lotion bars.
“I’ve never seen bees make honey before. It was neat,” said Naomi Weston of Soldotna.
“They usually scare me, but not today,” said her sister, Serena Weston.
This year’s fair also featured a wide assortment of arts, crafts, baked deserts, canned foods and agricultural products on display in the fair’s exhibit halls.
While some folks merely scanned items briefly, Debbie Hill of Ninilchik slowly and thoughtfully admired each of the fruits, vegetables and other garden goodies on display.
“This gives me hope that we could be an agricultural community. I mean look at this broccoli you don’t see stuff like this in the stores,” she said, while gesturing at an enormous cluster of bright-green growth.
“It’s huge and beautiful. These people put a lot of effort into this produce and this is a good way for them to get some recognition,” Hill said.
The fair also represented the culmination of a lot of hard work for the children and young adults involved in the 4-H Junior Market Livestock Auction.
“It feels good to have accomplished something,” said Kendra Moerlein of Kasilof, who was there to show off her black Angus steer named Bocephus.
Moerlein raised the steer, kept records on its growth, contacted businesses and performed public presentations about JML, took part in livestock workshops and worked at the fair to keep the grounds clean.
So, for Moerlein, the fair was the end of more than an year and a half of hard work.
A second prize winner titled "Caribou Eskimo" was one of many crafts on display in the Chinook Bay Exhibit Hall.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
“It’s really good to be here and I’m proud of my steer. It’s exciting to show it off and see what it’s worth,” she said.
Moerlein added that the JML has become a staple of the fair that many patrons enjoy.
“Lots of people like to come and see the animals and pet them and learn about them. Some kids have never seen a cow before so it’s fun for them. They love it,” she said.
The Kenai Peninsula State Fair continues today. Fairgrounds open at 9 a.m. and vendors and buildings open at 10 a.m.
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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