Soldotna ready for St. Patrick's Day events

Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Soldotna's ready to paint the town ... green.

The annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, a popular Soldotna tradition for the past 14 years, will again this year bring plenty of leprechauns, shamrocks and cries of "erin go braugh" to the streets of town Wednesday.

The parade route this year will run along the Kenai Spur Highway from Bailey's furniture to the Soldotna "Y." Participants are asked to show up at the Bailey's parking lot between 4 and 4:15 p.m. in anticipation of a 4:30 p.m. start time.

This year's festivities also will include a traditional Irish dinner, an auction and what's sure to be a crowd favorite fireworks, said Erica Williamson, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce member services manager.

"That's the best part," she said. "We're really excited."

The best place to view the fireworks is from the parking lot at the Soldotna Sports Center, Williamson said. The show starts at 9 p.m. The fireworks are courtesy of some sponsors with lots of Irish pride ConocoPhillips, Era Aviation, Wells Fargo and Homer Electric Association.

"They're expensive. Without them we could not put on a show," she said.

For those wishing to get a taste of the Emerald Isle, the chamber, along with the Soldotna Senior Center, is sponsoring an Irish dinner complete with plenty of potatoes and those old Irish staples, corned beef and cabbage.

The dinner will be held at the senior center beginning at 5:30 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

At the dinner, three separate auctions will be held, as well, including a traditional outcry auction, a silent auction and a special "balloon" auction, where participants pay $10 for a balloon and get whatever prize is hidden inside.

"It's a lot of fun," Williamson said.

The most visible part of the St. Patrick's Day festivities will, of course, be the parade. This year, the person who's been most responsible for getting things done behind-the-scenes will this time be its most visible participant.

Soldotna's Mike Sweeney is credited with founding the original parade 14 years ago. This year, in honor of his commitment to all things Irish, Sweeney will be the first person parade watchers see as the procession heads through town despite having to wear a brace because of recent back surgery.

"He's up and going strong," Williamson said.

Sweeney said Friday that he's expecting a good turnout for this year's parade.

"I think we'll get close to last year," when more than 100 participants showed up, he said.

Sweeney said the parade is open to anyone who wants to be involved. All he asks is that participants show up by 4:15 p.m. so things can get going in a timely manner.

The best place for people to watch from, Sweeney noted, will be along the southbound lane of the highway, on the side where his clothing store, "Sweeney's" is located.

"People should be on that side of the street because that's the lane the parade runs," he said.

Participation in the parade is free. For more information, call the chamber at 262-9814.

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