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Kenai River Festival mascot to get makeover

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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2012 8:36 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

KENAI, Alaska - Luq'a is headed to the salon.

The giant, 20-foot long salmon originally built as a mascot for the Kenai River Festival to educate and entertain is in need of a facelift, a tummy tuck and a new wardrobe, caretakers said.

Lisa Beranek, Kenai Watershed Forum Stream Watch coordinator, said she is helping organize a group to spruce up Luq'a - pronounced Shlew-ka - to be more aesthetically pleasing while still representing the original vision those who started the Kenai River Festival had for the creature. The group also wants to make Luq'a more efficient in presence and delivery so it can be used at many different community venues and festivals throughout the Kenai Peninsula.

Beranek said the group has had a few informal meetings, but organizers are still looking for members to help with the winter project. Luq'a is about 20 years old and has already seen several "revampings" in the past, Beranek said. She said she hopes the group will finish its work by April and have "Luq'a 2013" ready for the Kenai River Festival in early June.

"I think it would be helpful to have a few more creative minds and hands at the table," she said. "So what we are really looking for are some folks that are really interested in spending some time both in the brainstorming process and also in the implementation and facilitation of revamping Luq'a."

Luq'a, which is the Dena'ina word for salmon, currently takes at least nine people to facilitate with one person under each section of its structure. The idea behind the big salmon is to garner interest in the Kenai River, Beranek said, and also help people understand how to protect the resource now and in the future.

"If you were to see him, you probably wouldn't think, 'Oh, that's a salmon,'" she said with a laugh. "That's part of what we are going for in the revamp is to create a realistic image to him but also to have him be eye-catching and fun."

Beranek said t he group is open-minded in regard to the outcome of the project whether that means creating a new Luq'a altogether, just making it smaller, or doing extensive work to its appearance. She would like the end product to be a result of the group's vision.

"Luq'a is a big draw for people - kids and adults - he is a very visual presence when he is out and we feel it is hard to facilitate him and . so we are hoping to revamp him so we can have him out in the community and have him present and share that original community spirit that lives behind him," she said.

The group is hoping to have their first meeting in late October or early November, Beranek said. The project is expected to take about 25 hours.

"We are definitely in the infant stages so if someone was coming in, they wouldn't feel like they are in the middle," she said.

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