Soldotna progresses through Kenai River celebration

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

One thing is true about summer on the Kenai Peninsula: there's no lack of parades.

However, the 2004 Soldotna Progress Days Parade wasn't just about people having fun in the sun. This year it celebrated one of the most important bodies of water on the Kenai Peninsula the Kenai River itself with the theme "River of Dreams."

"It's a great body of water," said Marge Mullen, grand marshal of the 44th annual Soldotna Progress Days.

Mullen was one of the original 1947 homesteaders to stake a claim at the site of what is now the present day city of Soldotna. On Saturday, she was wearing a sash with the parade theme on it, and a greenish-blue dress she said was to match the glacially colored waters of the river.

"It's quite an honor," she said in regard to her duties as grand marshal, especially since she has been involved in the parade for so many years, and often had floats of her own in it.

She also reflected on the numerous routes the parade has taken over the years as the number of people, both participating and watching, has increased.

"The interest has really grown," she said.

Many years have passed since the old times, but the 84-year-old Mullen showed she still had the same fortitude as back in her homesteader days. She walked the parade route, rather than riding in a fancy vehicle, like many of her much younger parade counterparts.

"I'm proud to have the health and be fit enough to walk it at my age," she said.

Although not on foot, Mike and Gloria Sweeney the king and queen of this year's parade did ride in style. They waved to the crowd from a horse-drawn carriage, courtesy of Alaska C & C Stables.

Mike runs Sweeney's Cloth-ing in Soldotna, while his wife is an elementary school teacher. They have lived on the peninsula a combined 34 years, making them genuine Progress Day representatives.

"It's a good parade again this year," said organizer Ken Lancaster. He said there were roughly 100 entrants in this year's parade, a comparable number to years past. However, he said this year's parade seemed to have more classic cars, motorcycles, and with it being an election year, more flags and patriotic themes.

Many spectators said they enjoyed watching the parade and were happy they turned out for it.

"It was a good parade this year," said Christie Stinnet of Soldotna.

She said she's been coming to the parade for years and even rode her bike in a parade as a child.

"The Alaska Bolt and Chain float was my favorite. I also liked the (Mount Redoubt Pipes and Drums) bagpipe group, and the 'Wieners on Parade' were awesome," Stinnet said.

"This is my first time," said Claylene Johnson from Arizona, who was walking a dachshund with the Wieners on Parade group. "I think it's a great idea to include in a parade. I wish they had this down where I'm from."


Kailey Hamilton, 2, shields her ears while watching the parade from her grandma Cheri Johnson's lap. Events continue today.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Lois Farnsworth from Wisconsin said she enjoyed all the Central Emergency Services response vehicles.

"My son loves fire trucks and just goes crazy when they blow their horns," she said.

Her boy was in luck Saturday, since the two ambulances, an engine, a tanker and the fire rescue boat all frequently blew their horns at the waving crowd.

Jackie Aspelin from South Dakota said she thought the parade showcased what the town had to offer tourists.

"It was nice to see all the area businesses and the hometown hospitality. My kids also liked all the candy they got," she said, referring to the variety of sweets that were showered on the youngsters.

Aspelin said she had only one piece of constructive criticism for parade organizers.

"You should have more music in Alaska. Marching bands, high school bands, alumni bands, something like that, because bands really add to a parade," she said.

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