What a day.
Bright sunshine, a record number of parade entrants and thousands of spectators all came together Friday for one of the most memorable celebrations in the parade's history.
"It really did work out great," said parade co-chair Lonnie Kay Brooks near the conclusion of the event, hiding from the heat beneath a large canvas tent.
Brooks and Tim Navarre, the other co-chair, were taking a break from a hectic day of organizing, overseeing and orchestrating the event, while reflecting on the day's success.
Navarre said he credited the well-attended, well-received event to a willingness to cooperate among the numerous groups which helped organize the festivities.
"It was a whole community effort," Navarre said.
He said that although the Kenai Chamber of Commerce took the lead in organizing things, numerous other community groups this year took a more active role in making sure Kenai's biggest day came off. He mentioned the Moose, American Legion, Arctic Young Marines and area senior centers as among those who came on board this year to help set up and take down vendor booths, cook food, clean up after parade-goers and generally see that the event went off without a hitch.
"I think it really worked well that way," he said.
Although he gave credit to community groups for the logistical success of the event, Navarre said the parade got a bit of help from a notoriously uncooperative character Mother Nature.
"Everybody just got together, and then the weather cooperated and that was it," he said.
Temperatures reached the low-70s during the parade, bathing spectators and participants alike in bright July sun. Many in attendance gave the weather credit for both the large parade contingent the 100 entries were the most in the parade's history and spectator turnout.
"Everybody looked out their window and said, 'OK, I'll be in the parade today,'" said Steve Holloway, who served as one of two emcees announcing and sometimes critiquing parade entrants.
"If anybody needs fertilizer, they'll be auctioning it off after the parade," Holloway said, while an amused crowd watched two men dutifully cleaning up after a small group of horses.
Holloway's lighthearted tone carried the day Friday, as good-natured kidding and pleas for candy echoed up and down the parade route.
A participant in the pie-eating contest eats his vanilla pie with whip cream as fast as he can during the Fourth of July celebration at the Kenai Green Strip Friday afternoon.
Photo by McNair Rivers
While several young people darted into the snail's pace traffic of the parade, one senior citizen wondered aloud how he could get into the action.
"How long do you have to live in this town to do this?" he called, as the parade grand marshals, longtime area residents Bob and Bonnie Peterkin, rolled past.
Following the record-setting parade, many of those who lined the streets of downtown Kenai filed over to the Kenai Green Strip, where approximately 30 vendors dished out hot food, novelty items and even political advice.
Live music, the smell of hot dogs and the squeals of kids participating in a host of games filled the summertime air, as the celebration continued on well into the afternoon.
Some who attended sought a bit to eat or entertainment, while others seemed happy to simply sit back and enjoy the day.
Sitting in the grass at the edge the strip, Kenai's Lonnie Stanford sat with friends T.J. Franklin and Timmy Travers.
The three young men sat and talked quietly while watching people stroll past along the crowded strip.
The 20-something Travers lamented the fact that he was unable to snare any candy during this year's parade.
"It seems like when we were kids, there was a lot more candy," Travers said. "We want some candy!"
The other two laughed. Stanford, trying to catch a bit of sun, agreed that not enough free candy was being given to young adults, but said he still enjoyed Kenai's annual summer party.
"It was a good place to just come and take my shirt off and get a tan," he said. "It's a good time."
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