There's no guarantee of sunny skies for Industry Appreciation Day this Saturday, but organizer and co-founder Jack Brown, business development manager for the Kenai Peninsula borough, said there are sure to be lots of smiles.
"It's going to be a fun, relaxing day," he said. "What we try to do is create an atmosphere where people can bring their families and enjoy themselves."
The event, in its 10th year, will take place at the Kenai softball fields from noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday with a men's East 8 softball tournament to continue through the weekend.
10th Annual Industry Appreciation Day Tentative agenda:
8 a.m. - noon: Booth Setup
Noon: Opening ceremonies
12:15: Presentation of Colors by Veterans of Foreign Wars and Young Marines
12:30: Food service begins
12:30: Music - Top Cover (USAF band)
1:00: Chili Cookoff Contest
1:15: Introduction of VIPs by master of ceremonies, Borough Mayor Bagley: U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer (speeches by each)
1:45: Presentation of Industry Awards
3:30: Hawaii Vacation Drawing
4:30: Closing Remarks
Softball tournament will continue for two days
"It will be the largest industry day we've ever had in terms of booths, elected officials and public turnout," Brown said, saying he expects the numbers to easily eclipse the average 3,000 people who attend each year.
Companies and businesses representing the industries being honored -- oil and gas, commercial fishing and tourism -- were not asked to contribute to the festivities because they are being recognized. The event is free to the public and is sponsored by the borough and local chambers of commerce and businesses.
"You can leave your checkbook at home," he said.
Free refreshments, including hamburgers and hot dogs and a sampling of Kenai Wild salmon, will be offered and a free raffle will go on throughout the day with gifts for children and adults donated by local merchants. The grand prize, a trip to Hawaii, will be given away at 3:30 Saturday afternoon.
"But you do have to be present," Brown said. "(That) keeps the crowd there for the whole day. At least the ones that want to go to Hawaii."
Brown said seated politicians U.S. Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, state Sen. Jerry Ward, state Rep. Mike Chenault, and Borough Mayor Dale Bagley have been confirmed to come, but all candidates wishing to make an appearance are welcome.
"All the people who come will be there to help us honor the businesses," Brown said. "They are not there to promote themselves. This is a day we don't try to create any stress at all."
Brown and Aaron Goforth originally began the annual day in 1991 to combat what Brown described as a feeling of animosity toward peninsula-based oil and gas companies.
"Right after the Exxon Valdez incident, (some) felt like the oil and gas industry wasn't welcome in Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula."
He said he and Goforth, who no longer lives in the area, came up with the festival as a way of showing the borough's gratitude for the commerce and jobs the industry brings to the community. After several years, the commercial fishing industry was recognized and eventually tourism.
And he said the repercussions of the event resound up the corporate ladders of many honored area companies with connections outside the peninsula and the state.
"I've heard from several individuals that folks use this event to point out to their corporate headquarters just how welcome they are," he said. "We expect a lot of visitors to the event that don't live on the peninsula. A lot of CEOs are coming from the Lower 48 and Anchorage."
Two growing entities in peninsula commerce will make their public debut Saturday. Brown said the first public unveiling of both the Kenai Wild branded salmon and the Arctic Winter Games will take place.
"We'll have a demonstration of a few of the Arctic Winter Games and we'll be signing up for volunteers," he said. "And this is going to be the first public display of Kenai Wild."
Between 35 and 40 booths will provide games and activities for adults and youth alike and free parking will be available at the Kenai Mall parking lot across Main Street from the park.
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