'America: Land of the Free' parade draws hundreds to Kenai (+ Video)

The best part was the candy.


At least that's what most of the kids said.

More than 65 entrants in the parade threw candy, passed out fliers and entertained several hundred roadside parade-goers Wednesday during the annual City of Kenai Parade and Festivities.

Johna Beech, executive director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said they were surprised at the turnout given the weather.

"I'm thoroughly impressed, especially because mother nature is wanting to rain down upon us so I'm very happy to see the numbers turning out this year, it's great," Beech said.

For some, like Hakoa Montoya, the hour-and-a-half long parade was an entirely new experience.

The 6-year-old Kenai resident said he'd gotten to attend the parade after dropping his mom off at work in Kenai.

He wasn't sure which float was his favorite, but he proudly showed off a bright red bag full of candy and said the strawberry ones were the best.

For others like Greg Edelman his son Daniel Edelman, 7, and Riley Stimmel, 7, the parade is a familiar experience.

Greg sat in a parking lot in his glossy black 1969 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia while Daniel and Riley bounced around in the seats, both full of candy.

"We come every year," Edelmann said. "Bring the car out and enjoy the fun."

Porter said the parade attendance was impressive.

"It might be a little bit chilly out but everybody's hearts are warm because guess what, they're all here," Porter said. "I thought the attendance would be lower.. it's just wonderful."

Porter said she thought a lot about other Americans who weren't able to celebrate.

"You know where the fires are in Colorado, the flooding they've had in Florida and certainly the power outtages they're having on the East Coast," Porter said. "They're obviously, probably not doing the parades as they normally do, but they have to know the rest of America's heart's with them and we're celebrating for them."

Beech said there were vendors at Midway, the after-parade festival, who come in from out of town to sell their products in Kenai.

"That's definitely a draw to the community. So it does boost us economically, especially if we can bring them in for the parade and keep them for the festivities," Beech said.

It costs between $8,000 to $15,000 to put on the parade every year Beech said and all of the proceeds go back into the parade fund, however donations from the City of Kenai, Central Peninsula Hospital, Furie Operating Alaska, Ford and XTO Energy helped to defray costs in 2012.

Beech said the donations along with the 25 volunteers were key to keeping the parade and festival going each year.

Jade Sheppard, 5, of Anchorage, thought the parade was impressive.

"I loved everything with the parade. I think it was so much fun," she said. "Cause it has candy, it has lots of goodies."

As she spoke, the diamonds stuck on to her face sparkled in the sunlight.

She explained they were necessary for her parade outfit along with the red, white and blue headband she wore.

"It's a parade and we need diamonds on our face," Sheppard.

She gestured to the group of girls standing around and said she loved being with them.

"We had so much fun cause the butterscotch and the candy and the horses and all my best friends are there," Sheppard said.

Montoya said he'd like to attend another parade and started to explain which part was his favorite when a handful of Tootsie Rolls skipped down the street to land at his feet.

Montoya dove for them.

He looked up from the ground grinning widely and said "this part."

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com

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