One of the more eye-catching entrants to march in Friday's parade consisted not of locals disguised as historical figures or politicians riding in convertibles, but 122 Texans dressed in matching red short sleeved shirts.
The Hyde Park Baptist Church Chapel Choir of Austin, Texas, in town for a week-long whirlwind missionary program, took the chance Friday to perform its first ever marching choral performance. By all accounts, it was a singing success.
"It was fun," said high school senior David Battershell, one of the 93 high school members of the choir. "I didn't know a choir could march in a parade."
According to the group's leader, Hyde Park associate pastor of music Fred McNab, it took choir members normally accustomed to standing on a stage a bit of practice to learn the fine art of singing while on the move.
"This was the first parade ever for this choir," McNab said.
McNab said the choir spent the morning before the parade in the parking lot of their hotel, groggily learning how to keep a tight formation. It was just the latest in a series of adventures for the group as they crisscrossed the peninsula in an effort to spread the message of Christianity through fellowship, song and sport.
The choir arrived in Anchorage June 29. From there they traveled in a parade of nine 15-passenger vans down to the peninsula, where for the past week they've been busy putting on youth sports camps for basketball, baseball, soccer, cheerleading and archery.
Additionally, the group has spent time in Kenai cleaning up around Leif Hansen park and the Kenai cemetery. McNab said it's all part of a desire by choir members to help out and help spread the message.
"Our mission really is to come up here and spread the word of Jesus Christ," McNab said. "It is no doubt a spiritual mission, and we get to do that by a variety of ways."
Although their mission is serious, there were wide grins on the faces of the young singers Friday as they marched down the Kenai Spur Highway to the tune of gospel and patriotic melodies. In fact, according to choir members, the entire trip has been an exercise in balancing fun with missionary work.
McNab said most of the group has never been to Alaska, and many have had a hard time keeping up with the frenetic pace of the summertime.
"We've just been going, going, going," he said. "We're all a little bit tired. But (Alaskans) are always up. When it's light out, you need to go do what you need to do."
McNab said the choir is funded mainly by the Hyde Park Baptist Church, although participants must come up with some money for airfare. He said the church believes strongly in mission work, and that helping out in a community through camps, choir performances and work projects is one of the best ways to spread the message.
"The church puts a huge amount into it," he said. "People just give."
Following Friday's parade, the choir put on a short concert at the Kenai Green Strip, where after-parade festivities were taking place. Later in the day, they continued their Alaska odyssey by traveling to Homer for that town's Independence Day events. A busy day, but one in keeping with the choir's mission of sharing religion, positively interacting with the community and enjoying their trip.
"It was as much fun as we've had in a long time," McNab said.
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