In our own Backyard

Story last updated at 1:53 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fair fun a bright spot in summer on southern peninsula


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

2010: Poppy Benson, left, of Homer congratulates Gail Sorensen, also of Homer, for the division champion ribbon won by Sorenson's tomato.

Sick of too much damp weather? Weary of chilly temperatures? Wonder where summer went or if it actually ever arrived?

The Kenai Peninsula State Fair, held in Ninilchik August. 17-19, offers a cure for what ails you. Rain or shine, windy or calm, chilly or warm, there's fun to be had at every turn, just as there has been for the past 60 years. As this year's slogan promises, it's going to be a reelin', squealin' good time.

"We have spent more on entertainment this year than we ever have," said Lara McGinnis, fair manager. "We've got such an amazing line-up of new things. We've really stretched ourselves."

For instance, after years of trying, McGinnis has booked Paul Isaak, a Canadian comedian-juggler that will juggle "anything you throw at him. He's hysterical," said McGinnis. Isaak is currently performing at the Tanana Valley State Fair in Fairbanks. He is bringing his family to Ninilchik with him, including his wife, whom fair-goers will come to know as "Penelope the Clown."

"They're going to be so much fun," said McGinnis.

Then there's Powerhouse!!!, an innovative dance group that combines tap, precision clogging and stomp to entertain the crowds.

"They are originally from Kenai and now they're traveling all over the world and we were able to get them to come back," said McGinnis. "I can't believe they're coming back to perform."

What's a fair without animals? The Canine Stars will be performing three times a day, heating up the action where the Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs have performed in the past. The pigs are taking a break this year, but, McGinnis said, "they'll be back next year." Before pig fans get too disappointed about their absence, check out and see what these extreme stunt dogs can do. They promise a whole lot more than your sit-lay-down-roll-over action.

Woody's Menagerie brings even more animals to the fair with "Lions, Lemurs and Bears, Oh My," from the Lower 48.

"He rescues animals from homes that weren't supposed to have exotic pets or zoos that can't keep them and he uses them traveling around the country to educate people," said McGinnis.

Since 1991, Woody's Educational Wildlife show has been teaching the public about the unique characteristics of various species, promoting safety for animals and the public. He will be accompanied by a black bear cub, two lion cubs, a lemur, a spider monkey and armadillos.


2011: Alex Villa grills up a dog Friday for a customer at his Hot Dogs A-la-Carte stand.

Add to that the Alaska's Got Talent competition on Friday night (entry fee $20, winner is awarded $500 and an opportunity to perform in the state final competition at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer); the Junior Market Livestock Auction on Saturday, with 56 animals going up for auction; the popular Backwoods Girl competition now being held in its very own theater; magicians; musicians; rodeo excitement; the artistry and beauty of quilts made by local quilters; vegetables of gigantic proportions; jams, jellies and mouth-watering baked goodies from peninsula kitchens; activities for kids of all ages and so much more.

In addition, there are recently completed upgrades to the fairgrounds that McGinnis, the fair's board of directors and an army of volunteers have managed with financial support from the Legislature. Among them are paved walkways, an upgraded water system and, most recently installed, ADA-accessible rodeo bleachers to seat 750 with seven set-backs for wheelchairs.

Speaking of the rodeo, there are rodeo events in the arena beginning the evening of Aug. 17 and continuing Aug. 18-19.

Add it all up and what to you get?

"It's going to be phenomenal," said McGinnis.

Kenai Peninsula State Fair:


Ninilchik Fairgrounds


Aug. 17 and 18, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 19, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.


$10 adults, $5 seniors and youth. Three-day pass $25 adults, $10 youth, can be purchased in advance at Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center with $5 going to the chamber.

kids day:

Kids are free Aug. 17 with a donation to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank through a collaborative effort including the food bank, BP and the fair.


Aug. 17-19, admission $2.

exhibit submission:

Aug. 16, noon-6:30 p.m. at the fairgrounds, except for quilts. Southern peninsula quilters can submit quilts, wallhangings and wearable art at Sewciable Quilts in Homer between noon-2 p.m. Friday. For more information on quilt submission, call 235-6973. For a complete exhibit quide, visit

schedule of events: