Patriotism on parade

Posted: Tuesday, July 05, 2005


  Army National Guardsmen Arthur Moonin of Soldotna marches in the Fourth of July parade in Kenai on Monday. Photo by Joseph Robertia

Army National Guardsmen Arthur Moonin of Soldotna marches in the Fourth of July parade in Kenai on Monday.

Photo by Joseph Robertia

It was a red, white and blue celebration in downtown Kenai on Monday, as community organizations, interest groups and individual members gathered to take part in the Independence Day parade and festivities.

"The weather is great, the participation is fabulous and the theme is excellent," said Kenai Mayor Pat Porter.

With the sun shining in clear blue skies and temperatures hanging in the mid-60s, the weather seemed ideal to be out catching salmon — a notion not lost on the parade participants who relished in the theme "Spirit of Dipnetting on the Kenai."

The Diamond M Ranch float went by with an angler in the trunk battling it out on hook and line with a stuffed king salmon as big as the economy-sized car that it was on top of.

Not far behind, the Kenai Kennel Club float had numerous dogs with sandwich board costumes. The crowd of onlookers delighted in a big Rottweiler portraying a king salmon, accompanied by a tea cup-sized Chihuahua dressed as a salmon egg.

Not to be outdone, the Kenai Senior Citizens Center had a boat mounted to the roof of their van, festooned with red, white and blue salmon pursued by Uncle Sam with his dipnet.

Helen Carlson, Alaska State Mother of the Year and this year's parade grand marshal, said she was pleased with the parade turnout.

"It's neat to see so many people in the community show up," she said.

Carlson was happy to take part in the Independence Day event, in particular.

"I just love parades, but the fourth is a special time, so it makes it even better," she said.

Many shared Carlson's mind-set as to the significance of the national holiday.

"This parade always holds a special meaning. We fought for freedom and independence and that's what this day is all about, so you betcha it feels good to be a part of it," said Joe Sawyer, a Vietnam veteran manning the float for those who have been wounded in combat — Chapter 830 Military Order of the Purple Heart.

James Brand, another Vietnam veteran, drove his motorcycle through the parade while Rebeka Nelson rode on the back waving Old Glory in between waving at spectators.

"As a vet, this is my day, too, so I'm happy to be in the parade," Brand said.

In addition to the numerous warriors of freedom who have already served America, there were several currently serving who took part in the event.

Several members of the Army National Guard dressed in full combat fatigues with faces painted in camouflage colors and carrying M-16 and M-60 rifles walked next to a patriotically painted Small Unit Support Vehicle.

"We're the ones that help to make this country free, so we wanted to take part in celebrating it," said National Guardsman Aryon Bird.

Carrying instruments instead of artillery, but also celebrating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for their 12th year in a row, was Les Dennis and the Dixie River Rats — a band made of up of local music teachers and musicians.

"We can play anything we want, but we play Dixieland," Dennis said. "It's American music and it's happy music. All you've got to do is look at the little ones, turning around and whistling as we pass by, you can tell everyone enjoys it."

His words seemed to ring true as children like Megan Harden and Annika Castenholz danced and laughed as the band went by, then got back to collecting the red and white peppermint candy thrown by many of the float passengers.

"This is great for the kids. It's a very family friendly atmosphere," said Megan's mother, Sabrina Harden.

Following the parade, the festivities continued on the Kenai Green Strip Park along Main Street Loop where people enjoyed the food, entertainment and numerous vendor booths.

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