Barb and Norm Blakeley are the 2006 Progress Days royalty.
When asked what they thought when they learned they had been selected as queen and king of this year’s Progress Days, Barb and Norm Blakeley brimmed with modesty and light humor.
“Oh shoot, a free car ride,” Norm said jestfully.
And despite a long list of charitable activities the couple has engaged in, they insist they are just an ordinary hometown couple.
“We work hard and pay our bills just like everybody else,” Barb said.
But the couple has now twice been recognized this year for their volunteerism. First when Nancy Murkowski awarded them with the First Lady Volunteer award earlier this year and then again when they were selected to become king and queen for this year’s Progress Days.
In response, Norm and Barb are scratching their heads in modest surprise.
“That’s them ... they’re very humble,” said Michelle Glaves, executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. “They’re always trying to give someone else the credit, but they do a lot.”
Auctioneers by profession, the couple owns Blakeley’s Auction Co. on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna, and they’ve helped a wide array of nonprofit groups with fundraising, from Habitat for Humanity, the Sterling Community Club, the Boy Scouts, Peninsula Winter Games, the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce, hockey programs and football programs.
Norm said auctioneering may have helped get the ball rolling, by involving the couple in fundraisers and other community activities.
“It just kind of progressed from that,” he said. “(And) between the two of us we’re just pretty lucky to be able to help people out.”
Norm and Barb have been married for 11 years and say the generous and considerate nature of the community has anchored them here.
“It’s important to me and my family and my grand kids,” Norm said. “I want them to be in that environment.”
Norm said he and his wife are only two of many people who make this community great, and that is part of why they are here.
“There’s lots of people around that do neat things for the community and we’re glad to be a part of that,” he said.
Apparently the community is happy to have them be a part of it.
At a birthday party held for Norm in June, more than 100 people arrived to celebrate, Glaves said.
“So they’re very well-liked,” she said.
As the queen and king of the Progress Day’s parade, Barb and Norm will head it riding in a convertible.
The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board selected Barb and Norm as queen and king in part because they wanted the couple to know they were being appreciated on more than just the state level, Glaves said.
“They felt like this was the year for Norm and Barb since they were honored by (Nancy) Murkowski for their volunteerism statewide,” she said. “They also should be recognized locally.”
Now that Norm and Barb have been selected to become king and queen for the parade, however, the event’s coordinators have a new volunteer position to fill.
Normally, Norm directs the parade’s participants, helping to make the parade possible.
“So we’ll have to get someone to fill his shoes,” Glaves said.
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