Jackie Wise's cat Cocoa isn't too impressed with the "Weenies on Parade." The group of dachshunds marched on Saturday in the Progress Days Parade in Soldotna.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Everyone loves a parade, and on Saturday there was a lot to love at the 46th annual Progress Days Parade.
From miniature ponies to would-be politicians, church parishioners to acrobatic cheerleaders, classic cars to 4-H cattle, fire trucks to parents and friends of lesbians and gays, more than 100 entrants made this year’s line-up one of the largest ever.
And of course no Progress Days Parade would be complete without the dozens of dachshunds marching around the Weenies on Parade banner.
“This is out 13th year in the parade,” said Diane Fielden, the weenies’ organizer.
This year’s march was a memorial one for Fielden, who in December lost Porgy and Bess her last two dachshunds and the dogs she started the weenies parade theme with.
“They were the original two and they were in 12 years of parades with me. That’s a big legacy for such little legs,” she said.
Kayli Kitchens, left, and her cousin, Sydney Kitchens, wave to fire trucks during the annual parade.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Fielden added that, even without her two canine companions, she felt obligated to continue the event for others.
“The community loves the weenies and at this point they expect us to be in the parade, so I couldn’t quit,” she said.
In addition to being flattered by community support for the little lapdogs, Fielden said she is constantly surprised by the consistent number of weenies that show up for the event.
“I never thought it would grow to this. We had 26 dogs our first year and as many as 70 a few years ago. I’m hoping for 100 weenies one of these years,” she said.
Fielden said many of the people who come with their weenies are local, but quite a few come from further away.
Margo Chilson carries Cameron Plagge through Soldotna Creek Park, where there was food, arts and crafts, music and entertainment for children.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
“We’ve had people come from Anchorage and the Lower 48 just to march their dogs in the parade,” she said.
Lisa Guillory was proof that what Fielden said was true. Guillory said she along with her husband, Robert, and daughter, Desiree drove down from Anchorage just to take part in the event with their dogs Stella, Ricochet, T-bone and Dexter the latter of which was so excited he was pulling on his leash like a big sled dog pulling in the Iditarod.
“We’ve been in Alaska for 24 years and this is only our second time down here. We’ve never done anything like this before, but we love little dogs and thought participating would be silly and fun,” Guillory said.
Eunice Martens of Arizona was another first-timer in the parade, and she borrowed a friend’s weenie, named Dogee, to do so.
“Dogee’s owner works two jobs, so she asked me if I would put her in the parade,” she said.
Martens said she was excited to be in the parade since she is in the market for her own dog.
Local Denice Tourtellot has been in three past parades with her dog, Roko. She said she keeps coming back because of how good it is for her furry friend.
“I think he likes being in the parade and seeing all the other dachshunds. It’s also good exercise for him,” she said.
While the dachshunds represented how dog-friendly Soldotna is, other floats represented different aspects of the community.
Shiela Best of Soldotna marched with her two sons, Tanner and Dalton, as part of the Kenai Peninsula Pop Warner organization. She said involving her boys in the football organization and the parade was a great way to teach them valuable life lessons.
“(Pop Warner) teaches them a lot about coming together and being part of a team and the parade teaches them a sense of community,” she said.
Dick Hahn, chairman of the Soldotna library board, said he also participated in the parade with the Friends of the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library float with the idea of lasting contributions to the community in mind.
“The parade theme this year is ‘Building Legacies’ and the library makes valuable contributions to everyone in the community learning,” he said.
Hahn said that since the Friends of the Library relies on volunteers for fundraising, donations and social event planning, having a float in the parade was also a great way to attract new members.
While the parade wound down after a few hours, the Progress Days festivities carry on through the weekend. Events continue today at 11 a.m. at Soldotna Creek Park where the city of Soldotna hosts a free community barbecue.
At noon the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge begins showing hourly films on a variety of topics, including: “Kenai National Wildlife Refuge: Where Wildlife Comes First,” “Sled Dogs: An Alaskan Epic, and “Denali: the Living Eden.”
Family Rodeo Fun Day also continues at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds at 10 a.m. for children’s events and 2 p.m. for adult events.
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