A preview of this year's Progress Days

As the 55th annual Soldotna Progress Days celebrates the evolving hub of the central Kenai Peninsula, the event continues to adapt and add activities to the list of festivities highlighting local interests.

This year will include a free 5K run, starting at noon on Sunday, on the newly completed gravel trail connecting the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex with Centennial Trail.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Project Coordinator January Yeager said the addition reflects the developing interest in 5K runs in the Soldotna community.

“It’s a great way to get people on the trails,” Yeager said. “Right now the community’s interest seems to be in runs, and now we can maybe get a different crowd involved in the event this way.”

Of course this year’s festivities will also include many past favorites, Yeager said.

Construction obstructing its regular route down Binkley Street, Yeager said, will not hamper the Progress Days parade. This year the procession will begin at Soldotna High School at 11 a.m. and head down Marydale Avenue and continue on down Binkley Street, where everyone will disperse and head over to the Soldotna Little League Fields, she said.

Saturday will start with an appeal to local foodies, kicking off with the day long Dutch oven competition held on Gehrke Field at the Soldotna ball fields, said Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson.

The heavy black pots heated by constantly monitored burning coals will be set up for the annual Alaska State Dutch Oven Championships.

Nels Anderson’s wife Carla Anderson will also be taking part in the competition, the first place winner of which will have the chance to attend the International Dutch Oven Society World Championship Cook-Off held in Salt Lake City.

The food vendors at this year’s event will appeal to a very specific festival oriented theme, Yeager said, with everything from waffles at the new mobile establishment Wook Waffaz Waffle Emporium, to cupcakes to funnel cake, Yeager said.

“Basically it will be anything you could want fried on a stick,” Yeager said with a laugh.

Live music will provide entertainment on both days of the event, Yeager said. Musicians Hobo Jim, Conway Seavey and Troubador North will be performing with sets starting at noon on Saturday and Sunday and continue until 4 p.m. both days.

Chains will again buzz sending sawdust flying both days in the annual Sawfest Exhibition, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Yeager said. The carving display will culminate in an auction of the final products and include a People’s Choice Vote on the best piece.

The variety of events acting in conjunction with Progress Days spans further than the perimeter of the Soldotna ball fields, Yeager said.

The Corvette Car Show hosted by the Anchorage Corvette Association, will be held in the parking lot of Auto Spa starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday. An Arts and Crafts Bazaar will feature products from local vendors at the Soldotna Senior Center. The Soldotna Rodeo will begin at 3 p.m. at the Soldotna Rodeo grounds.

Director of Economic Development and Planning Stephanie Queen said every year the chamber does a great job continuing to update the list of programs for Progress Days.

The annual event has become a local institution. It’s a place to see familiar faces and the gamut of interests and hobbies of Soldotna’s community members, Queen said.

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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