Annual appreciation day fills folks with info, food

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

Anyone who went home hungry after Saturday's Industry Appreciation Day did something wrong, especially since the price was just right for food free.

Thick smoke belched from grills that ran continuously throughout the day cooking fresh 4-H raised hogs, salmon filets, hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings.

"It's a great opportunity for the community to get together," said Debbie Boyle of North Kenai, attending the event with her husband and son. "We come every year for the fresh hog from 4-H, nothing compares to it."

While the adults dined on barbecue, sticky-faced children ate large, pink puffs of cotton candy, kettle corn, cookies and watermelon.

Not to be upstaged by all the other good eats, the chili cook-off in its 11th year, was again highly competitive.

"We're here to defend our championship," said Tommy Thomason, representing last year's chili champions, the Grand Order of the Eagles.

Thomason's partner Mick Etherly said he couldn't reveal the recipe since they were sworn to secrecy. However, even the Eagles' concealed ingredients weren't enough to take home the trophy this year.

The Kenai Moose Lodge out-spiced the competition to win the event.

"Bob Roach made it and it was awesome," said Susan Cason, while accepting the first-place award.

Despite all the food, there was more to the Industry Appreciation Day festivities, including plenty of games for children and adults alike.

Gary Turner, director of Kenai Peninsula College, signed up for the fish toss event sponsored by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.

Turner wound up a pitch and gave a mighty first toss, but the salmon's gills tore and it landed only three feet away from him.

He redeemed himself on the second fish, though, when he hurled a humpy through the air in a spiral that would have left most professional quarterbacks envious. His distance was a whopping 53 feet.

"That last fish wasn't bad, but I knew I had a better throw in me," said Turner facetiously. "It was fun, though."

Another event was the Kenai Peninsula Fishing Association's net pulling contest. Kids had to pull a setnet with mock fish into a boat as fast as they could.

Jason Johnson pulled in his net in 13.6 seconds.

"It was easier than in the water," he said.

His mother, Judy Johnson, is a commercial fisher and said he helps pick fish frequently.

"It wasn't hard for him because there was no tide pulling the net," she joked.

In addition to the food and games, there also were many industry-related booths giving away informative literature and putting on demonstrations of their products and services. Live music played throughout the day.

There also were several drawing for prizes to be given away. There were bikes and basketballs for the kids and vacations to Las Vegas for adults, just to name a few.

Saturday's event drew many families that came to spend the day together, while paying homage to the Kenai Peninsula Borough's big three oil and gas, commercial fishing and tourism.

"We come every year," said Jocelyn McCollum of Kenai, attending the event with her husband and son.

"It's a family tradition to come enjoy the weather, the food and the fun. It's also nice to pay tribute to the local industries that we appreciate so much."

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