Kenai Peninsula residents and visitors alike will have a chance to reconnect with the spirit of Alaska during this weekend's Progress Days events in Soldotna.
While some may think the word "independent" best describes that spirit, it only takes a look back to realize "interdependence" better captures the character of the Last Frontier.
Nothing could have been accomplished without people working together toward a common goal.
Soldotna's homesteaders certainly were a hearty, self-reliant lot, but their stories also are replete with accounts of how they relied on one another for mutual support.
How they helped one another, how they shared with one another, how they connected with one another really is Alaska's spirit.
Anyone who has ever been on the giving or receiving end of that spirit knows what a powerful force it is.
The spirit of Alaska is what has driven progress through the years. While some may long for the good ol' days, it's doubtful many of Soldotna's homesteaders would want to exchange today's paved and plowed roads and conveniences for the hardships of their early days on the peninsula.
The homesteaders depended not only on each other, but also on the generosity of Mother Nature. They knew if they cared for the land and water where they settled, the land and water would care for them.
Good stewardship remains an integral part of Alaska's spirit. Because Kenai Peninsula residents are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, they know better than most that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand.
This weekend's Progress Days celebration is an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of Alaska and honor those who exemplify it.
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey expounds on that spirit in a column he wrote for the Peninsula Clarion's Progress Days special section, which is included in today's newspaper.
Also in that section, Soldotna artist Sherri Sather discusses her interpretation of the spirit of Alaska, which is the theme of this summer's art at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center; one of Sather's pieces is featured in the show. The spirit of Alaska also is captured in short profiles of Katherine Parker, the grand marshal of this year's Progress Days parade, and Ken and Mavis Lancaster, who have been selected as Progress Days king and queen.
The special section also includes a schedule of this year's Progress Days events.
While Soldotna's reputation today is built around sport fishing, this weekend's celebration is the perfect reminder that there's more to this community than fish. You need only to show up to be surrounded by the spirit of Alaska and its small-town charms.
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