True to its eight-year history, Industry Appreciation Day was blessed with dazzling August sunshine. And crowds. And food. And more booths than past events could boast.
Standing on the edge of the crowded Kenai Park Strip, Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna, surveyed the event.
"This looks better than last year," he said. "The parking lot is full of cars and there's more booths."
Not a bad way to thank the oil and gas, commercial fishing and tourism industries, the three major legs that maintain the peninsula's economic balance.
Booths representing interests from Bibles to prisons to volunteer opportunities offered free food, pins, stickers, candy, balloons and informational packets. Music by the U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific's Top Cover from Elmendorf kept the crowd hopping. A chili cook-off, hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecued pork kept the crowd eating.
The presentation of the flag by the Veterans of Foreign Wars momentarily hushed the crowd. Ball caps were removed and everyone stood at attention as the national anthem was sung and the pledge of allegiance recited.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, master of ceremonies, announced the arrival of U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski. After a brief introduction by Kenai Mayor John Williams, Murkowski told the crowd that he had spent the morning at the BP gas-to-liquids plant site in Nikiski.
"It's very impressive and a credit to the community," Murkowski said.
Concerning a gas line to move North Slope natural gas to markets in the Lower 48, Murkowski said BP, Exxon Mobil and Phillips Petroleum Co. were concerned with doing what's best for Alaska, as well as what's best for their corporations and shareholders. A design that would allow for an extension to the Kenai Peninsula would provide backup reserves for Cook Inlet, Murkowski said.
"We want to do it right ahead of time," he said.
Clarifying misunderstandings concerning the pipeline package the producers have given to the state's congressional delegation, Murkowski said it has not become legislation, but is being addressed in hearings with state administration, legislators, and the producers.
"We have to look to the future," Murkowski said. "We have to consider what's best for Alaska."
Awards were presented to representatives from each of the three areas of industry.
Doug Blossom, receiving an award for outstanding contribution by a commercial fisher for community service took the opportunity to urge a united effort between commercial and sport-fishing interests.
"Unity makes for progress, not fighting" said Blossom, a Clam Gulch resident who came to the Kenai Peninsula in 1948. "We never fight sportfishing, but they seem to fight us. But that's not the answer.
"Right now, the Bob Penneys of the world are killing the Kenai River," Blossom said. Penney is a leading figure in Kenai Peninsula sportfishing and has strongly advocated less fish for commercial fishers and more for sport anglers. "The dollars spent on the river are not to help it. They just get more people on the river."
Blossom encouraged working cooperatively with the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, who "raises fish for everyone." He said he hoped the state's congressional delegation "will help in that effort. They can make more fish for every user group or none."
While adults discussed community issues, youngsters wearing T-shirts with the names of political candidates handed out items. Toddlers with cookies in their hands stumbled around the legs of adults.
Continuing to shake hands with the crowd, Murkowski sampled chili that he said in past years had sent him in search of a fire hydrant.
Luckily, representatives of the Kenai Fire Department were nearby.
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