Something for everyone at Kenai Peninsula festival

Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010

While the produce might not be as large as the cabbages at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, the Kenai Peninsula State Fair is big on community pride.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
KesLee Jex gets help blowing giant bubbles from her grandma, Denise Higginson, at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Friday afternoon.

"It's still small and it's still family and community," said Linda Painter of Ninilchik, a fair board member.

She said when fairs get "too big" they become "too commercial."

Her mother, Carol Bock, "invented the fair," she said, and growing up her family prepared the fairgrounds and ran the booths.

"It brings everybody together," she said, "a lot of the people I haven't seen since last year at the fair."

And while the fair, in its 59th year, has evolved over the years the "family values" aspect of it has not changed much. In fact, Painter's own family is still instrumental in setting up the Kenai Peninsula State Fair.

This year, her grandchildren are helping to run some of the game booths.

"It's just sort of a generational thing. We all come, we all participate and we all have fun," said Painter's granddaughter, Kaitlyn Nolan, 20, of Ninilchik, working at the mini-golf booth Friday afternoon. "It's something to look forward to every year."

That was also the general feeling from the 4-H club members who participate yearly in the fair's exhibits and livestock showings.

Hailey Ames, 13, of Soldotna, was at the fair with her sibling and cousins to sell the pigs they had raised as part of 4-H.

"It's just really exciting," Ames said about selling her pig, which she named Tank. "The reason why we came here is to sell our pig, shop and see the rodeo."

Seeing and selling livestock is a big part of the fair's attraction, with goats, horses and pigs all part of the event.

"My favorite part is seeing the animals and seeing the stuff that can teach you to do the animal stuff," said Vydell Baker, 8, of Soldotna, while sporting a red and blue-glittery hairdo and a painted crown across her forehead.

On Friday's family day, the fairgrounds were teeming with children looking just like Baker with creatively painted hair and faces. Over at the pig track, little hogs raced against one another while the bookies collected bets on the winners. Attendants munched on all the usual fair treats -- pizza, ice cream, kettle corn -- while enjoying the exhibits, live entertainment and nice weather.

"It's just the weather is so great. It's just changed and become so beautiful today," said Becky Hamilton, a board member for the fair and parade coordinator. "Everybody is turning out."

She spoke of the collective community effort the fair takes to pull off -- from the fresh pies to the activity booths.

The yellow, handmade signs with the word "Remember Matti" were another way the fair was honoring community. Mathias "Matti" Martin, 9, was killed last year at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds after being fatally injured while showing a dairy cow.

"Matti was very special to all of us," she said, adding that the Martin family is very active and supportive part of the area.

"Everything that you see down here is community," she said. "Neighbor helping neighbor."

The Kenai Peninsula State Fair continues today with pig races, entertainment, and a rodeo. The fairgrounds open at 9 a.m.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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