Al Hershberger was honored at the Soldotna Progress Days Pioneer Barbecue and Meet and Greet, where was named grand marshal of the Progress Days Parade, Friday, July 26, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Al Hershberger was honored at the Soldotna Progress Days Pioneer Barbecue and Meet and Greet, where was named grand marshal of the Progress Days Parade, Friday, July 26, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Barbecue celebrates Soldotna’s early homesteaders and pioneers

Al Hershberger was presented with a proclamation designating Al Hershberger Appreciation Weekend.

Dozens of people came out to the Soldotna Homestead Museum to celebrate and honor Soldotna’s early pioneers and homesteaders, including Al Hershberger — who was named the grand marshal of the Soldotna Progress Days Parade. Hershberger was also presented with a proclamation from the city of Soldotna, which proclaimed Progress Days weekend as Al Hershberger Appreciation Weekend.

During the presentation, Hershberger said he was at a loss for words. After the ceremony, folks were invited to a free barbecue dinner and encouraged to explore the cabins that make up the Soldotna Homestead Museum.

“(Getting honored) felt good, but it was kind of humbling, you know?” Hershberger said.

Carroll Brookman, the docent at the museum, said she appreciates events that celebrate Soldotna’s early settlers.

Brookman’s family came down to the peninsula from Anchorage in 1958, when Brookman was 15 years old. They homesteaded land that was about 8 miles from town.

“Actually, I was outraged,” Brookman said. “I was a 15-year-old girl. My parents were moving me somewhere with no telephone. I was not happy.”

As soon as Brookman graduated high school she moved back to Anchorage, and then in 2001, she came back to the homestead to be with her mother. Now, she lives on her parents’ original homestead.

Brookman said she appreciates the people before her, who had the forethought to preserve Soldotna’s history.

“The people before me that worked so hard to get this historical society going — people like Al, today, and Marge Mullen and my parents,” Brookman said. “It was hard, because in 1980 when they were trying to get everyone to participate in this project they would say ‘what do you mean history? You’re only talking about 1950.’ The fact they realized it needed to be saved was a good thing.”

Brookman said it was nice to see Hershberger recognized for the work he’s done.

“He’s been instrumental to so many things,”

James Gibbs, whose family came to the peninsula when he was 10 years old, in 1953, said it’s satisfying to see events like Progress Days that celebrate early homesteaders.

“I’ve noticed people want to know more,” Gibbs said. “The community is actually pretty interested in what the community used to be like.”

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