Live music, classic cars, American flags and a lot of candy — all of these and more could be seen at this year’s 4th of July Parade in downtown Kenai. The sidewalks from Fidalgo Avenue to the Main Street Loop were flooded with paradegoers who eagerly awaited all the floats, trucks and motorcycles that were part of the procession. Parents brought out their camping chairs and picnic blankets and snagged a spot in the shade while the kids hovered at the edge of the sidewalk, ready to snatch up all the candy being thrown their way.
The parade featured special appearances from all sorts of colorful characters: Batman, Spiderman, Smokey the Bear, Buttons the clown and the Scoop, the Oilers Mascot, just to name a few. Twin City Raceway and Road to Recovery showed off a few of their speed machines — including one painted red, white and blue — while local dance groups Diamond Dance Project and Forever Dance Alaska showed off their moves.
Dorothy Gray drove her 1954 F100 in the parade for the third year in a row. This year her granddaughters Leah and Eileen Arness joined her for the fun. Leah and Eileen matched the truck’s ‘50s theme with poodle skirts and cat-eye glasses and handed out candy while Gray drove alongside them.
“It was awesome,” Leah said about being in the parade. “We got to see so many people!”
This is Leah’s second year being the parade, and Eileen was joining her sister and grandma for the first time. When asked what her favorite part of the parade was, Eileen didn’t need to give it much thought: “The candy!”
“I have to say, I’ve lived here for 41 years and I don’t think it’s ever been this hot before,” Gray said after the parade was over. Temperatures reached the upper 80s in Kenai on Thursday, and Gray wasn’t the only who commented on the heat. Addison Hayes is a dancer at Forever Dance Alaska, and she said it was a little tough to do all that dancing in the hot weather. That being said, Hayes didn’t let the heat stop her from having a good time.
The parade ended at the Kenai Park Strip where dozens of booths were set up with games, food and crafts for sale. Local band Troubadour North played a three-hour set and put their hometown spin on songs like “Wagon Wheel” and “Friends in Low Places.” A Hometown Heroes display was set up where people from the peninsula honored their loved ones in the military with signs displaying their name, rank and the branch in which they served.
Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Soldotna, was in attendance with a dunk tank, and people could donate a couple dollars to the LeeShore Center for the chance to soak the local representative. At the other end of the park strip, in the spirit of America’s vibrant democracy, Jason Floyd and others gathered signatures in an attempt to recall Knopp from Alaska’s Legislature.