By Joseph Robertia
This weekend the Kenai Peninsula Fair returns to Ninilchik for its 62nd year and with the theme of “Clamming It Up,” just like real clam digging, organizers are expecting a crowd regardless of the weather, particularly with events like honoring veterans and helping the hungry planned.
“We’re just days away now and we’re really excited about all of this year’s events,” said Lara McGinnis, fair manager.
The festivities kick off Aug. 16, which will be “Red Shirt Friday,” a day for honoring every military member currently deployed.
“We’re encouraging everyone to wear red on Friday, to show their support for the troops, and we’ve paired with the Alaska Elks, who’ve agreed to donate $1 to Alaska’s Healing Hearts for every person who wears something red,” McGinnis said.
Alaska’s Healing Hearts is a nonprofit organization that provides social integration programs, such as hunting, fishing and other outdoor trips, to wounded warriors and their families and loved ones.
In addition to the request of fair patrons to wear red, McGinnis said that Sweeney’s has donated red, silk-screened shirts for fair employees and rodeo contestants to wear that day.
“They look really sharp,” she said.
Those wearing red also will be coordinated to form a giant heart pattern and hold a banner supporting soldiers, which will be photographed via airplane at 3 p.m.
While it is important to honor those far from home, McGinnis said the fair also wants to help those on peninsula, as well. As such, Friday will also be Food Bank Day, which means every child that brings in a canned item to donate to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank gets into the fair for free.
“People don’t always realize that when you support that fair, you’re supporting the entire Kenai Peninsula, and this Food Bank Day is just one example of that. We hope to generate over 2,000 pounds of food, but some years we have 7,000 people come through, so if everyone brought something, we could potentially donate as much as 7,000 pounds of food, which would be awesome to achieve,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis said that all vendor space is booked, the racing pigs are back, and the exceptionally warm and sunny weather this summer should also mean a booming year for food exhibitions, as well as livestock.
“I think we’ll see some amazing produce grown, based on how the summer went, and we’ve got more than 60 Junior Market Livestock animals this year. Some of the kids said their animals were gaining weight too fast due to the summer, so they had to cut back on the feed to keep them at the ideal weight,” McGinnis said.
Another area of growing popularity, playing on hit television shows such as “American Idol” and “The Voice,” is the fair’s annual “Alaska’s Got Talent” competition, which will take place 4 p.m. Friday on the fair’s main stage.
“The talent we’ve been getting is phenomenal, and this year is no exception. We’ve got three finalists from Nikiski’s talent show, as well as 13 other kids. There’s a rapper, dancers, a juggler, and a piano virtuoso who is not to be missed,” McGinnis said.
“The winner will receive $500 and a slot in the Alaska State Fair, where they’ll have a chance at $5,000,” she added.
For the full schedule of events, exhibits and vendors, check out the Kenai Peninsula Fair online at www.kenaipeninsulafair.com. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. Friday. Admission for adults is $10, and $5 for kids and seniors, with free admission for seniors Sunday. Kids get in for free Friday with the donation of a canned food item.