The cold and windy weather did not keep area residents and visitors from enjoying the festivities at the Kenai Park Strip Thursday afternoon.
To kick off the day, Elana Bramante sang the national anthem for a large crowd and then music flowed freely as Troubadour North entertained the masses with a mixture of country and rock.
The aroma of barbecued food wafted through the air as the crowd laughed, visited, shopped and ate. People walked through the crowded area with plates filled with funnel cakes, corn-on-the-cob, nachos and sandwiches.
Nancy and Woody Koppl, who were enjoying a beef brisket sandwich, explained that they were visiting from California and were excited about the small town celebration.
“We have been really enjoying it,” Nancy said.
The couple stayed at the Diamond M Ranch during their visit, and they have enjoyed their time in Kenai. The Koppl’s said they did not realize that they would not get to see fireworks on this Fourth of July, due to the extended daylight.
“That is one of those things you don’t think about,” she said.
There was no lack of excitement as children lead parents to the right side of the park strip where inflatable toys and snow cones were available.
Yukonna Keeney knelt down to give her young daughter a bite of blue cotton candy and explained that her girls, 4 and 6, enjoyed the inflated slide and bouncy house first thing after watching the parade. While the family watches the parade each year, this was their first time attending the events that followed.
“The kids loved it,” she said. ‘We really wanted to attend the events this year and we are glad we did.”
On the far left side of the strip, several horses from Matti’s Petting Farm were ready to give rides.
JoAnne Martin said she and her husband, Carol, have been involved in the parade, with 4-H animals from Diamond M Ranch since 1974.
“In 2013 we are continuing on in the memory of Mathias ‘Matti” Martin,” she said, referring to her grandson who was fatally injured while attending to livestock in 2009.
Aside from the horse rides and petting zoo, Martin said there were also hayrides planned for that afternoon.
One booth located in the middle of the excitement was the RN’s United, the nursing union representing Alaska. The group formed in 1997 and has been part of the post-parade festivities for the past three years, selling baked goods.
Velinda East, one of the RN’s on hand, said a total of 10 nurses worked about a month to get the treats ready.
“The nurses try to do fundraisers a couple times a year,” East said. “We want to give back to our community and this is our way of giving back.”
Proceeds of the sale of baked goods will go to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.
One of the big acts during the day was Julius, a yo-yo entertainer, who amazed the crowd with his various tricks.
“It is my job to travel around and play with toys,” he said.
With each trick and joke, he amazed watchers with his yo-yo abilities.
During his performance Julius highlighted a local yo-yo enthusiast. Curtis Kanakis, 14, of Soldotna.
Kanakis, who has been mastering the yo-yo for three years, said he eagerly watched Julius’ shows at the Soldotna Sports Center and at the Soldotna Park. Kanakis also spent three hours with Julius, getting pointers and inspiration.
Kanakis performed a few tricks for the audience and received a new yo-yo from his mentor.
“I was nervous,” he said. “But my goal is to be as good as him.”
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.