By Jenny Neyman
For summer solstice on the central Kenai Peninsula, daylight lasts just about all day and night for the entire weekend. Why shouldn’t there be a festival serenading the sun?
For the second year in a row, the central peninsula’s solstice music festival expands to three days, with the KDLL Art and Music Festival on Friday and Saturday and a third day of Christian music sponsored by the Kenai Peninsula Bed and Breakfast Association. Hours are from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, all at Diamond M Ranch on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
“We started off with just one single day from noon to midnight. It’s grown to a three-day weekend, so I suppose in that sense it’s grown quite a bit,” said Allen Auxier, station manager at KDLL. “My intention is just to put on a bunch of music and have fun and that’s basically what we do. We try to have a little bit of music for everybody.”
Folk, country, rock, Hawaiian, blues — Friday’s lineup includes seven performers and Saturday’s has 12, with several returning favorites taking the stage.
“I always enjoy Mo Mo Blues, and I always like the English Bay Band and Hobo Jim,” Auxier said. “I love the harmonies and melodies of Charmer’s Daughters and Food for the Soul. I also certainly love the Kassik’s beer. I enjoy the fact that a lot of people help out and volunteer and everyone always has a good time.”
In some cases, names have been changed — not necessarily to protect the innocent, but not to confuse people, either. Mo Mo Blues, for instance, was known as Mo Betta Blues until they heard of another band down south that already used that name. Nancy Saylor is local singer-songwriter Nancy Anderson, debuting her married name. Food for the Soul is essentially a reunion of Worth Many Cattle, with Suzanne Little, Bonnie Nichols, Vickie Tinker and Jack Will.
“Mo Mo Blues has traditionally closed the show for us for years and years, for the last six years, anyway. It almost doesn’t feel right if they aren’t here to close the show,” Auxier said.
Katie Evans will have something new to share with the audience when she performs Saturday, as she debuts songs from her new CD. She was hoping to have the album done by solstice weekend, but it’s expected to be released for sale at Veronica’s in Kenai by Aug. 1.
The 12 acoustic tracks are called “A Passing Afternoon,” and are produced by Scot Q. Merry, who will accompany Evans at the solstice festival. The acoustic tracks are about life in general, she said, but ended up somewhat chronicling her time in on the central Kenai Peninsula.
“There’s a song I wrote right when I moved here and songs written throughout the past three years about lessons learned and growing up, because you grow up a lot on your own in Alaska, and you get this little family that were once strangers. A lot of what it’s about is this growing-up theme and figuring out life and that kind of thing,” Evans said.
This is the KDLL festival’s eighth year, and it will again include arts and crafts vendors, food stands and activities for kids, including a DinoJump and face painting. For adults, there will be a beer garden serving Kassik’s Kenai River Brew Stop brews. There also will be a first this year, a 40-by-80-foot, 2-foot-deep transportable kayak pool for kids, designed by John Steckel, former Soldotna Middle School physical education teacher and member of the Kenai Peninsula Bed and Breakfast Association. There will be paddleboats and kayaks for kids to test out, as well as several triathlon events, with inner tubing, biking and running.
“It’s a wonderful family outing — lots of fun, lots of good music. A good time is had by all,” Auxier said.
The weekend has Auxier’s official KDLL guarantee for sunshine.
“It’s just our little mini-Woodstock, minus the mud pit. No mud this year, I’m afraid,” he said. “Oh, no, I take that back. I’m sure the kids will find some somewhere.”
The festival will be held in the grass pasture at Diamond M Ranch this year, as the empty lot that’s been used in the past is having dirt work done this summer.
For the KDLL festival, the gate opens at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students ages 12 to 18, and free for kids under 12 accompanied by an adult.
Sunday is the actual summer solstice, as well as Father’s Day. The bed and breakfast association wanted to commemorate both with its music festival, which serves as a fundraiser for the organization. The association worked with KDLL to extend the festival by a day last year. It worked out well so they’re doing it again this year.
“Well, you know, things went over so well on our day last year, we said, ‘Let’s do it on the real day this year,’” said JoAnne Martin, with Diamond M Ranch and a member of the bed and breakfast association. “We’ve had good sponsorship thus far and most of our members are working hard to participate.”
Many of the 10 bands on the lineup are connected with local churches and ministries, although some are coming from out of town. Others will be faces from KDLL’s festival, just playing different songs. Hobo Jim, for instance, while better known for his Alaska ballads and rollicking bar performances, has an extensive repertoire of spiritual songs, as well.
“He said, ‘I bet you don’t believe me, but I know more than 200 camp-revival-type meeting songs,’” Martin said.
Evans is part of Thegoodkind, playing gospel music. And The Band Next Door has a significant youth following, Martin said.
“Every teenager I’ve mentioned it to said, ‘Oh yeah. We’ll be there,’” Martin said. “… If the kids can dance to the music and listen to the words and behave themselves and look toward God for their guidance, then more power to them.”
Kids activities, including the jumping games and kayak pool, will be carried over from the KDLL festival, and there also will be horseback riding and llama cart rides. To celebrate Father’s Day, breakfast will be served all day. Dads get a free meal if accompanied by someone else purchasing food. The food is as fresh and locally grown as possible, Martin said, with sausage from pigs raised by kids participating in the 4-H program.
“Since it’s Fathers Day, we had to play that up because we hope fathers will say, ‘You’re going to take me out to lunch after church, and this is where I want to go,’” Martin said.
“It’s going to be a nice family affair with lots of activities for kids,” she said.
Door prizes will be drawn throughout the festival Sunday, with ticket holders needing to be present to win. There also will be an on-site raffle, including Grant Aviation tickets, a flight-seeing tour and chartered fishing trip. For that one, winners don’t have to be present to win.
Admission on Sunday is $5 per person, with kids 12 and under getting in for free if accompanied by an adult. Hours are noon to 8 p.m.
KDLL Art and Music Festival performance schedule
4 p.m. Savant — progressive rock
5 p.m. Joe Ray Skrha — country/folk
5:45 p.m. Nancy Saylor — folk singer/songwriter
6:30 p.m. Chaz Nixon — folk singer/songwriter Sarah Superman
7:15 p.m. Rocking G — country/Western
8:15 p.m. Food For the Soul — folk, formerly known as Worth Many Cattle
9:15 p.m. The Couzins — rock and roll
Noon Hobo Jim — “Alaska’s balladeer”
1:00 p.m. Katie Evans and Scot Q. Merry — folksinger/songwriter, originals
2:00 p.m. Bunny Swan — traditional Kenaitze songs, drumming
3:00 p.m. Halei — folk with Hawaiian flavor
4:00 p.m. The Charmer’s Daughters — Melissa Kay and Stephanie Bouchard — folk
5:00 p.m. 60/40 — 1960s folk scare era music
6:00 p.m. Robb Justice and the Funky Wrench Gang — folk, classic rock
7:00 p.m. Dave Edwards-Smith — didgeridoo
8:00 p.m. Esther Gotton – singer/songwriter from Talkeetna
9:00 p.m. English Bay Band — rock and roll from English Bay
10:00 p.m. AK Free Fuel — rock and roll
11:00 p.m. Mo Mo Blues — blues
Sunday Solstice Festival
Contemporary Christian, gospel rock, starting at noon
Syvrud Family Singers
Kapture the Silence
The Band Next Door