Parade draws crowd to the streets

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2003

It's been said that everyone loves a parade, and this year's Progress Day Parade was no exception, as throngs of people lined the streets to be part of the celebration.

There was something for everyone, so much so that at times it seemed as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting.

There were men in gorilla suits and chicken costumes riding ATV's pulling children in sombreros. A chef on a bicycle passed out information about the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. A man dressed in a cow suit danced from atop hay bales being pulled by a tractor.

Of course, all the weird and wacky stuff seemed to fit into the festive mood of the morning, but it was not to be upstaged by the theme of the parade, which this year was "There's no business like Soldotna business."

In the spirit of progress, several new peninsula businesses had floats in the parade for the first time. Best Hikes a guiding, hiking and sightseeing company was among those with an inaugural float.

"We've lived in the Kenai-Soldotna area for a long time and always watched the parade," said Sheila Best, the proprietor of the business. "Now that we have our own new business, we thought it would be fun to be in the parade."

The float was a short section of a hiking path with several children in backpacks waving from it. It had potted trees and shrubs, huge chunks of sod and a gravel path down the middle of the float as the trail.


Amanda Anglebrandt, right, climbs on her uncle Rick Anglebrandt's back for a better view of the parade with Jennifer Chizek Saturday.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"We didn't destroy anything to build it," said Best of her naturalistic design. A friend that had cleared some land donated the flora.

The Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays also had a float for the first time in this year's parade.

"It's a new chapter in the area and that marks progress, so we thought it would be good to have a float this year," said Mike Merrick, a PFLAG float decorator putting the finishing touches on a giant rainbow stretching across the float. The chapter he was referring to formed in 2001.

"We know this is a conservative area, but there are gays and lesbians here, too, and we want to make these people more comfortable where they live," said Joan Merrick, another PFLAG supporter.

"Hate is not a family value," she added. "Our float represents tolerance, diversity and understanding."

Rick's 2nd Hand Store also had a float in the parade for the first time. The float was a hodgepodge of new and used items and a few antiques.

"We're new in Soldotna, having moved from Kalifornsky Beach Road, so we thought it would be a good community event to participate in," said Mikki Galley, one of the float decorators.


Clark Whitney helps his son Aidan get a better view of a fire truck during Central Emergency Services' open house. The event was part of Saturday's Progress Days activities.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

"We had a lot of fun building the float, and it's a good way to advertise and let people know we're here," she said.

Despite the numerous new floats this year, there were several familiar favorites, as well.

The Soldotna Police Depart-ment had its mascots McGruff the crime prevention dog and DARE the drug prevention lion dancing and waving from its float.

Central Emergency Services had numerous emergency vehicles in the parade, much to the delight of spectators, especially the youngsters who were allowed the opportunity to inspect the vehicles up close after the parade.

The spectacle of more than 50 wagging and wiggling wiener dogs had the crowd laughing and cheering.

"This is our 10th year in the parade," said "Weenies On Parade" organizer Diane Fielden.

"We love this event," Fielden said.

"We've walked though extreme heat and pouring rain. We've got people here today from Anchorage and Seward who came to join the fun. We love our weenies."

The dachshunds weren't the only canines in this year's event.

The Peninsula Dog Obedience Group returned for its third consecutive year with displays of agility and doggy athleticism.

Sherrie Egbert was one of the group members there with her Boston terrier mix named Cori.

"Cori's happy to be here," said Egbert. "All the horses, balloons and stuff scared her the first year she came because she had never seen anything like them, but now she's gotten used to them and really likes it here."

The parade also drew in many of the state and peninsula's politicians. Sen. Tom Wagner, former Sen. Jerry Ward, borough Mayor Dale Bagley, Kenai Mayor John Williams and Soldotna Mayor David Carey were in attendance.

"Soldotna's the best!" Carey cheered in between "wahoos" and waving to the crowd during his march down Binkley Street.

The parade was followed by numerous events, including an arts and craft bazaar at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center with live entertainment and food, free wildlife films at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and a family fun rodeo at the Soldotna rodeo grounds.

The Progress Day festivities continue today. For more information or a schedule of events, call the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at 262-9814.

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