Annual event focuses on community cooperation

Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2004

Name: Henry.

Age: 6 months.

Weight: 325 pounds.

Taste: delicious.

The description refers to a 4-H hog raised by Jesse Chumley, bought by Sen. Tom Wagoner and Rep. Mike Chenault and donated to the barbecue for this year's Industry Appreciation Day.

Industry Appreciation Day recognizes and celebrates commercial fishing, tourism, oil and gas, and other industries and workers who help mold the unique character of the Kenai Peninsula.

Not to be outdone by the competition in this tough political year, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski also purchased and donated a 4-H hog for the feast.

"We invite everyone to try some," said Murkowski to the crowd of hundreds that gathered for the festivities.

Murkowski added she attended the event to "praise and give thanks to all those communities, families and individuals that are making sure that industry remains strong here."

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman also spoke at the event. The politician from Ninilchik said it was good to be back on the peninsula, and he was happy to be able to answer a question he is so frequently asked in his duties as lieutenant governor:

"People always want to know how do you do it," said Leman in regard to how the various industries on the peninsula, which often have conflicting, still manage to work together on a multitude of issues.

"My answer to them is we're all family on the Kenai Peninsula, and we work together. That's how we do it," he said.

His words rang true, as is evident by the fact that the oil and gas industry and the commercial fishing industry have existed side by side in Cook Inlet for decades.

Not everyone was there for the celebration, however.

"I just come for the free food. I'm addicted to the Kenai Wild salmon. I'll come to every event where they're serving that," said Jim Barnett of Nikiski.


Michelle Brinegar photographs her son as he gets his ride.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

He and everyone else had plenty of goodies to choose from. In addition to the 4-H hogs and Kenai Wild salmon, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, chili, drinks and cookies.

"We'll go through about 3,000 hamburgers and 1,500 dogs before the end of the day," said Duane Bannock, a grilling veteran of many Industry Appreciation Days in years past, a former Kenai City Council member and current director of the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles.

"I come back year after year because it's the premiere picnic on the peninsula, and I love to be involved," Bannock said.

"The only one that comes close is the 4-H barbecue in Ninilchik, but they charge for that," added Norm Blakely, who's also worked the grill for the last five years.

The chili cook-off is a spicy contest at the event, and this year's winner was the VFW. The Moose Lodge came in a close second, and the Eagles had to settle for third.

"It was a really tough contest this year," said Kenai Mayor John Williams.

Again this year, children could sign up to compete for a free bicycle. All they had to do was win the frozen T-shirt contest. It's harder than it sounds, though, as many young contenders found.

To the George Thorogood and the Destroyers theme, "Bad to the Bone," Caelin Elsey from Sterling took first place in the 9-year-old division after banging, breaking and then squeezing into his ice-cold shirt.

As to his secret technique to busting the shirt and putting it on so fast, Caelin said, "Well, I've been in football a couple times, so I think it was my strength."

Entertainment included live music, drawings, games and information booths.

Several individuals and businesses also were honored with awards.

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