No Business like Soldotna Business: 43rd Annual Progress Days

Posted: Tuesday, August 05, 2003

The 43rd Annual Progress Days was a great success in Soldotna last week, with more activities, participants and visitors than ever.

The parade was a community collage with as wide a variety of floats as there are interests in the Central Peninsula, and all celebrating this year's theme, "There's no Business like Soldotna Business." From state of the art public safety vehicles to mammoth earth moving machines, racing cars to Winnie dogs, the breath and width of Soldotna's commerce paraded along Binkley Street passing the seat of Borough government and the grandstand.

When the more than 80 floats had passed the judges grandstand, the Grand Overall winner were the bagpipers known as the Alaska Highlanders. To view the other 12 floats the judges chose for awards this year, go to This year's Grand Marshal was retiring Soldotna Police Chief Shirley Gifford, and the King and Queen of Progress Days was Ed and Lila Krohn of Kenai Auto. Major sponsors of the event were Unocal Alaska, Alaska USA, and Tesoro.

Progress Days is the largest event of the year for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, and was a hectic time for Keren Kelly to be assuming her new position as executive director for the chamber, "What a day full of events," said Kelly, "This is the most exciting and most organized community event that I've ever been to, and the staff that put this all together and the people that participated were just fabulous," added Kelly, who recently arrived in Soldotna with her family from Dillingham, Alaska. Originally Kelly hales from Colorado where she was the assistant to the city manager in Aspen.

The bottom line of the parade theme this year however seemed to be brought out best by a visitor from South America. Maria Valencia, of Bogot, Colombia, celebrated her 60th birthday mushing a dog team atop the Godwin Glacier in Seward, drifted the Kenai River, explored Kachemak Bay, saw whales breeching in the Kenai Fjords, salmon leaping the Russian Falls, and when asked the highlight of her visit to the Kenai Peninsula, she replied, "The parade! The parade was beautiful! I loved the parade, it was the most beautiful thing to be together with the people that were giving out candy to children, you could leave your purse on the ground and not be afraid that somebody would be taking it away. Everybody came and say 'Hi,' and I felt part of the Soldotna town which I thought was beautiful and it touched my soul."

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