When it comes to saying "thank you," the Kenai Peninsula has its bases covered. That's the whole idea behind Saturday's Industry Appreciation Day.
"Right after the Exxon Valdez incident, there was a lot of negative press toward the oil and gas industry," said Jack Brown, a former borough assembly member and now director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Eco-nomic Development Division. "We just felt that we needed to do something positive to let the companies and employees know that we appreciated that they were here providing jobs and an economic base for the community."
In its eighth year, the event has expanded to honor the contributions fishing and tourism make to the borough. Brown received encouraging feedback on the value of the celebration a couple of years ago.
"Our efforts were highlighted when I read in the Alaska Journal of Commerce two years ago that Unocal said one of the reasons that they were on the Kenai Peninsula was because of the great community support evidenced by Industry Appreciation Day," he said. "That was good to hear."
Brown, who chairs the 27-member organizing committee, said this year's thank-you event will cost approximately $10,000. It has run as high as $25,000 in past years when it included a concert. Neither the major companies nor members of the public pay to participate.
Everything -- prizes, food, T-shirts, mugs, balloons, cotton candy and even a foot massage -- is free.
"Basically, local governments, headed by the borough, support industries and small businesses are the ones that put on the event," Brown said.
This year's three "super sponsors" are Udelhoven Oilfield System Services Inc., Cornell Companies Inc. and the borough.
"Udelhoven donated $750 in cash, two round-trip tickets to Hawaii and lots of prizes," Brown said. "Cornell donated $1,000, two bicycles and balloons, and the borough donated over $1,000."
According to Pat Crowell, a member of the committee, some 30 booths will begin setting up at 8 a.m. Saturday on the Kenai Park Strip. The fun begins officially at noon and continues until 4 p.m. with an awards ceremony at 2 p.m. Music will be provided throughout the day by the Elmendorf Air Force band Top Cover. The day boasts a menu filled with food, including hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued pork donated by the 4-H Club, salmon donated by local fishers and a chili cook-off. Final action of the day is the drawing for the tickets to Hawaii.
Borough Mayor Dale Bagley will be the master of ceremonies, handing out prizes and introducing guest speaker U.S. Sen. Frank Murkow-ski, who is scheduled to arrived around 1 p.m.
"This is a great way of recognizing and showing appreciation for what (industry) does here on the peninsula," Bagley said. "We got very lucky with good weather and expect a great turnout."
Bagley said that in the past -- "depending on who's counting" -- there have been as many as 3,000 to 5,000 people stop by during the day.
"Everyone seems to have a good time," he said.
The secret is being there.
"One thing we should emphasize is that there's always enough food, regardless if there's 3,000 or 5,000 people" Brown said. "And people need to know that they've got to be there to win the Hawaii tickets."
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