Soldotna sidewalks were a swirl of green Wednesday afternoon as people gathered to watch the 30th Annual Sweeney’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. While stereos blared Irish pub music, children chased candy chucked from the inside of cars and from atop horses. The event was one of the central peninsula’s first large community events since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago.
The parade began at 4:30 p.m. and followed a new route this year, with participants lining up at Parker Park, traveling down Fireweed Street and then Redoubt Avenue toward the intersection of the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways.
Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shanon Davis said Wednesday morning that the parade is somewhat of a milestone for the city, because 2020’s St. Patrick’s Day parade was the first event the city canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just didn’t know how bad things were going to get and how dangerous this virus actually was,” Davis said. “So to be able to support the 30th Annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in the City of Soldotna is pretty special for us this year.”
Davis said that the parade has a general policy of not requiring people who want to participate in the parade to sign up in advance, so that can make it difficult to know what to expect.
“We have a thing about the St. Patrick’s Day [parade] that you don’t have to sign up, just line up,” Davis said.
Participants in the parade’s procession included the goats and pigs of Diamond M Ranch, a Central Emergency Services fire engine and ambulance, ice racers, bagpipe players, Soldotna Little League and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, among others.
Davis also said that the chamber and the city felt good about hosting the parade in light of declining COVID-19 case numbers in the region and because the parade is held outside.
“The [City of] Soldotna administration has done a phenomenal job of keeping the residents of Soldotna safe, but also … as our numbers have continued to decline and businesses are opening up more and more, they’re just being very realistic about the fact that our community is ready to start coming together again,” Davis said.