Surviving Soldotna’s Frozen RiverFest
A few years ago, some local citizens in the town of Soldotna on the Kenai Peninsula were trying to dream up something to liven things up in their town during the slow, dark, and cold month of February. For reasons still murky to this day (though it’s quite possible the consumption of beer was involved), they seized up the wild idea of holding a beer and music festival. Outdoors. In February. Since all Alaskans are by nature just a bit nuts -- after all, we choose to live here, in a land famous for its extremes-- it should come as no surprise that this somewhat wacky idea turned out to be a great success, and the Frozen RiverFest was born.
The 2017 Frozen RiverFest will take place in Soldotna Creek Park, located between the Sterling Highway and the Kenai River in downtown Soldotna. It runs from 4 to 8 pm on Saturday, February 18. There will be live stage performances for the duration of the festival, plus many other activities, such as games and food trucks. Over a dozen breweries from across Alaska will be serving samples of their beers. Admission for non-drinkers is free; those wishing to consume beer must have their age verified and pay a $10 entry fee, which entitles them to receive a sampling glass; beer tokens are sold separately at $3 for an 8 oz. pour.
Thinking about heading out to this year's Frozen RiverFest? Here are my tips for a great time:
Come Early If You Can: While the Fest itself doesn’t start until 4 pm on Saturday, there are a couple of great events happening in the days prior to it. On Thursday night, Kenai River Brewing Company will be hosting a beer dinner in its new brewery, for the first time ever. On Friday night, The Flats Bistro will be hosting its own beer dinner, featuring courses paired with beers from each brewery attending the festival, followed by live music. Typically, representatives from the breweries also attend these dinners, so they are a great chance to chat with them about beer and brewing.
Bring the Family: Unlike many beer festivals which are only open to people 21+, the Frozen RiverFest is a true family-friendly undertaking. Non-drinkers are admitted free, and there are a host of activities for the kids, ranging from archery and kick-sleds, to ice skating and dog mushing demonstrations. It’s a reminder that beer can be a healthy part of enjoying time together as a family.
Dress for the Weather: Remember, this festival takes place outdoors. There are several bonfires and fire bowls, as well as warming tents, but you will still be outside in Alaska in February for several hours, so arrive prepared. The festival will only move indoors in the most extreme conditions (read: blizzard); past events have taken place in single digits with a brisk wind blowing. Hats, gloves, parkas, and snow boots are pretty much required gear.
Sample the Special Fest Beers: Each year, local breweries select a style of beer to brew just for the festival; past choices have included doppelbocks and scotch ales. This year, they will be brewing smoked beers, so make sure to taste and compare each brewery’s submission as you move around the festival. Be sure to keep an eye on the alcohol content as well; brewers in Alaska are famous for brewing stronger beers, so it’s important to know and observe your personal consumption limits.
Finally, but most importantly, remember to have fun! After all, having fun is why there’s a Frozen River Fest in the first place!