Clarion file photo In This July 25, 2009 file photo Furry participants in the "Weenies On Parade" entry waddle at double time speed down Binkley Street in Soldotna on Saturday during the Progress Days parade.

Annual Progress Days celebrates past, present, future

Music, craft, community and history will be among the many things celebrated at this year’s Soldotna Progress Days.

Now in its 56th year, the two-day festival brings thousands of area residents and visitors together to partake in entertainment, competitions, live music and more, all with the goal of commemorating the community and how far it’s come since the city was incorporated in 1960.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce events coordinator Andy Rash said festival organizers expect between 5,000 and 6,000 community members to participate this year. That’s not including those who participate in numerous events and activities throughout the area not sponsored by the chamber.

“I think what everybody really likes is coming to the festival and seeing their neighbors,” Rash said.

The annual parade will kick off the weekend, with lineup at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Soldotna High School. The parade will make its way to Binkley Street from 11 a.m. to noon.

Rash said residents will likely see many neighbors and friends running vendor booths throughout the weekend at Soldotna Creek Park.

“We have a lot of craft vendors, a lot of food vendors,” Rash said.

Local organizations wishing to promote upcoming services and events are also known to fill the vendor booths, he said.

Vendor booths will open at 11 a.m. both days of the festival in Soldotna Creek Park. Live music will begin at the same time and last until 10 p.m. on Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday.

“All of our (music) groups are mostly from the local community,” Rash said. “We do have a gal from the Lower 48. She’s up here visiting and she reached out to us.”

In addition to Carol Markstrom, a folk musician all the way from West Virginia, Rash said he thinks people will enjoy the Denali Cooks, a local Alaska band that will play from 8-10 p.m. on Saturday. Residents can also enjoy a beer garden that will open at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra will play from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday. All live music is free and open to the public.

Tami Murray, executive director for the chamber, said she is excited to have Progress Days back in the Soldotna Creek Park, a location she said makes it easy for residents to get outside and enjoy the weekend’s activities.

“It’ such a wonderful tradition here that we do in Soldotna,” Murray said. “It’s growing every day.”

Rash said this year’s theme, “Soldotna — Past, Present, Future,” is being carried over from last year because it epitomizes what the festival is about. He said residents enjoy not only remembering the city’s past success, but looking forward to future progress as well.

In addition to vendors and live music, the annual Dutch Oven Competition will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. on Saturday. Adult competitors will cook from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., while junior contestants will cook from 1-4 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place, as well as a novice prize for the adults.

Winners of the Sawfest Chainsaw Carving Competition will be announced at 3 p.m. on Sunday, and will be carving all weekend starting on Friday at the Stanley Chrysler on the Sterling Highway.

The Corvette Car Show will take place from noon to 4p.m. at Hutchings Auto Spa in Soldtona. The annual rodeo will run from Friday through Sunday at the Soldotna Rodeo Grounds.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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