Kenai Peninsula Fair cancelled for 2020

Jul 1, 2020

This photo from the Kenai Peninsula Fair shows spectators at the pig races during the fair in Ninilchik.
Credit Kenai Peninsula Fair

The latest victim of pandemic-related closures is the annual Kenai Peninsula Fair in Ninilchik.

The board for the fair announced the closure Tuesday, saying in a statement that the decision was difficult. The fair’s been going on for nearly seven decades and is usually one of two big gatherings in Ninilchik each year, the other being music festival Salmonfest. Salmonfest announced its cancellation in May, and the fair had delayed the decision, hoping things would get better.

Other states are experiencing spikes, and while Alaska’s cases are still low overall, social distancing is one of the last restrictions that will likely be lifted, the fair board said in its statement. The board hopes to go forward with a food, craft and art fair in conjunction with the rodeo the weekend of August 14-16.

The fair usually includes indoor art displays, vendor halls, music and performances as well as livestock auctions and a rodeo. One of the keystone events has historically been the Kenai Peninsula 4-H junior livestock auction, where kids in the 4-H program sell off the animals they’ve been carefully raising this year. Usually, the participant walks his or her animal around a ring in front of a crowd, and an auctioneer takes outcry bids.

That’s not going to be possible this year, but 4-H had already considered that, said Cassy Rankin, the 4-H program assistant with the Kenai Peninsula Cooperative Extension. The Cooperative Extension is under the umbrella of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which has more restrictive policies than the state in general, so 4-H has already been considering options for how to move the auction online. She said she’s been watching some of the Lower 48 auctions, which have been creative.

"We do have 40 kids this year who have been working hard on their market projects, and enjoying the challenge of bringing an auction to you in a way that we haven’t done before," she said.

While going online isn’t 4-H’s first choice, Rankin said the participants in this year’s auction are looking forward to the opportunity. They’ll be contacting their usual business partners in the next few weeks about the auction and look forward to public participation in their auction.

"We’re going to very much miss the in-person contact this year," she said. "We can’t get around that. An outcry auction is fun, it’s exciting; for a lot of our bidders and buyers, it’s one of their favorite parts of the fair, and it’s a really fun way to support 4-H youth. They will miss that—our bidders and buyers will miss that, our 4-Hers will miss that. Like I said, this wasn’t our first choice to do it. But in light of having to make that decision, we’re really excited that there is an option."

Rankin said anyone looking for more information can call or email her or check out Kenai Peninsula 4-H’s Facebook page.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@kdll.org.