Pigs, parade back for ’13 Ninilchik fair

The Ninilchik fairgrounds was home to two days of rodeo excitement in July. Last weekend it was the site of Salmonstock, a three-day celebration of “fish, fun and music” presented by the Renewable Resources Foundation. (See related story.)

Now it’s the Kenai Peninsula State Fair’s turn to fill the fairgrounds with three days of “clammin’ it up” excitement. 

The gates open daily at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 16, 17 and 18, with the fair ready to go by 10 a.m.  On Aug. 16 and 17, the gates close at 9 p.m. On Aug. 18, the fair comes to an end at 5 p.m.

Admission for adults is $10 per day; youth 6-12 and seniors 65 and older are $5; youth five and younger are free. A three-day pass is $25 adults and $10 youth and seniors.

This year’s blend of new additions and old favorites is promising to make it fun for all ages, thanks to the hard work of Fair Manager Lara McGinnis and the fair’s eight-member board of directors. 

“Let’s talk about what’s old,” said McGinnis of resurrecting Friday, the first day of the fair, as Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Day. “Kids are free with a donation for the food bank.”

Food Bank Day is being sponsored by BP. McGinnis said the fair averages 7,000 people each year and “I would love to have 7,000 pounds of food to donate to the food bank.” 

Food donations will be accepted the entire weekend.

After a year hiatus, the popular Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs are making a comeback. The six little porkers will perform throughout the weekend.

“We missed them,” said McGinnis of the pigs’ absence last year. “This year I have confirmation that they will arrive at the fairgrounds on Wednesday afternoon.”

Also new this year is Red Shirt Friday, supported by Elks lodges across the Kenai Peninsula, Mike Sweeney of Sweeney’s Clothing in Soldotna, the 4H Trailblazers and Tesoro. At 3 p.m. Aug. 16, an aerial photo will be taken of everyone at the fair wearing red arranged in a heart-shape and holding a “Remember Everyone Deployed” banner. 

“It’ll be an amazing tribute to our service men and women,” said McGinnis.

Also returning is the Saturday morning parade. After concerns were expressed about disruption to local businesses, the parade was canceled for the 2012 fair.

“Would you believe it, all those same people that called because they hated the parade called and wondered where was the parade,” said McGinnis. “So, it’s back and it will continue every year I can get a (Department of Transportation and Public Facilities) permit.”

Parade entrants will assemble at the Inlet View Lodge parking lot at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 17. The parade begins at 10 a.m. and continues along the Sterling Highway south to the American Legion’s Post 18 parking lot.

Saturday also is the junior market livestock auction, offering an opportunity to bid on livestock raised by 4H members on the peninsula.

Music keeps the air buzzing throughout the weekend, both the homegrown and the imported varieties. This year, Josh Krohn, who debuted on the fair stage about 30 years ago and is the son of fair board president Martie Krohn of Homer, is back, playing with his Idaho band, The Dirty River Ramblers. Other musical acts represent a wide variety of genres, including bluegrass, ukulele and bell ringers. New to the lineup is the band Herrick of Nashville, who recently released the hit “Do You Love Me” and won the Country Song Award for the 11th edition of The Independent Music Awards with the song “Cry Memphis.”

“We booked them before they hit the billboard and these guys are going to be so big,” said McGinnis. “They’re a new, young group and they’re phenomenal.” 

When it comes to vendors, the Kenai Peninsula State Fair is a packed house.

“We have an amazing food line-up,” said McGinnis of everything from Hawaiian ice slushies to bourbon chicken, as well as typical fair favorites. And when you’ve finished that canned beverage, don’t toss the can in the trash. Coca-Cola has added 25 red and white recycling cans to “help us keep America beautiful,” said McGinnis.

The gardening green thumb of Helena Bock, a fair board member from Ninilchik, and Trinity Greenhouse of Soldotna have the fairgrounds abloom with flowers.

Saving the best to last, the final day of the fair has been designated “Senior Sunday.” Admission is free for anyone age 65 or older. 

“It’s a tough time and a tough economy, but there’s nothing more exciting that bringing your grandchildren to the fair,” said McGinnis. “We are thankful to find the sponsorship of South and Central peninsula hospitals so seniors are free.”

Kenai peninsula Fair board members include Marti Krohn of Homer, president; Jim Stearns of Homer, vice president; Kathleen Kitson of Sterling, secretary; Mike Warfield of Sterling, treasurer; Shirley Cox of Happy Valley; Helena Bock of Ninilchik; Dean Kitson of Sterling; and Lyn Paton of Homer.

For more information or a copy of the fair program, visit www.kenaipeninsulafair.org.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.