Aspen Creek Senior Living residents, dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, roll down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Aspen Creek Senior Living residents, dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, roll down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Celebrating Independence in the streets

Kenai comes out for annual Fourth of July Parade

The annual Fourth of July Parade returned flags, candy, politicians and plenty more to the streets of Kenai on Thursday.

This year’s parade, following the traditional route from Trading Bay Road to the Kenai Spur Highway and then up to the Kenai Greenstrip, ran for almost exactly an hour and a half, with hundreds of participants in the streets dwarfed by thousands lining the sidewalks.

The Kenai Fire Department, the Soldotna Little League, Pop Warner Football, Aspen Creek Senior Living, the American Legion Post 20, Forever Dance Alaska, Frontier Community Services, the Peninsula Oilers, and many more were represented in the procession.

Owing to the oncoming election season, many local representatives either currently serving or vying for a seat in the Alaska Legislature brought crowds of supporters to their parade floats.

Incumbent Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, who represents Senate District D — including Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski — could be seen in bright red passing out candy during the parade. Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, who is challenging Bjorkman rather than seeking reelection to his current seat, proceeded down the streets with an acted-out tug-of-war display where men in suits, the “Government,” dragged behind them women, the “People,” by a rope representing the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

Also appearing was Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, who holds House District 7 and represents Kenai and Soldotna. He passed out fliers while moving down the street with a large pack of supporters all emblazoned with a bright yellow “Ruffridge” on their shirts. His challenger, former Rep. Ron Gillham, R-Kenai, did not participate in the parade.

The two men chasing the House District 8 seat — which covers Nikiski, Sterling and Cooper Landing and previously was held by Carpenter — are Bill Elam and John Hillyer, both of whom paraded down the street on Thursday. Hillyer was eagerly crossing back and forth on the road and greeting people on the sidewalks; Elam walked surrounded by his wife and kids, one of his young boys tossing candy to eager recipients.

Other political displays included a campaign effort for presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. by Nikiski resident Ray Southwell and a float by Happy Valley resident Waynette Coleman featuring a number of costumed riders — including the Statue of Liberty — in protest of borough voting procedures.

When the parade concluded, hundreds filed into the Kenai Greenstrip near Steve Shearer Memorial Ball Park to continue celebrating. Live music rang out from a stage and the strip was lined with booths, vendors and food trucks. The Kenai Senior Center sold slices of pie, Kenai Fire Department helped kids launch high-pressure streams of water at targets and the Shire of Frozen Coast — a local chapter of Amtgard live-action role-playing — directed children in combat with foam swords and shields.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Participants clad in red, white and blue proceed along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Participants clad in red, white and blue proceed along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Children smile and wave flags from the back of the American Legion Post 20 Train as it rolls down South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Children smile and wave flags from the back of the American Legion Post 20 Train as it rolls down South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The American Legion Post 20 Twins walk along South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The American Legion Post 20 Twins walk along South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Children pass out flags during the Fourth of July Parade on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Children pass out flags during the Fourth of July Parade on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel proceeds down South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel proceeds down South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, passes out fliers while picking up speed to rejoin his float on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, passes out fliers while picking up speed to rejoin his float on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, hands Tootsie Rolls and other candy to children on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, hands Tootsie Rolls and other candy to children on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dancers from Forever Dance Alaska perform on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dancers from Forever Dance Alaska perform on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dancers from Forever Dance Alaska perform on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dancers from Forever Dance Alaska perform on South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, walks down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, walks down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A skit put on as part of a float owned by Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, depicts “People” being pulled along while battling over the “PFD” with the “Government” on the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A skit put on as part of a float owned by Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, depicts “People” being pulled along while battling over the “PFD” with the “Government” on the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

John Hillyer, candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives, catches up with his float on the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

John Hillyer, candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives, catches up with his float on the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Central High School football team proceeds down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Central High School football team proceeds down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Bill Elam, candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives, walks with his family down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Bill Elam, candidate for the Alaska House of Representatives, walks with his family down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Representatives of the Peninsula Oilers, including mascot Scoop, proceed down South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Representatives of the Peninsula Oilers, including mascot Scoop, proceed down South Willow Street in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Nurse Honor Guard proceeds down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Nurse Honor Guard proceeds down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Participants clad in red, white and blue proceed along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Participants clad in red, white and blue proceed along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Ray Southwell campaigns for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. while walking the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Ray Southwell campaigns for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. while walking the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A Statue of Liberty stands atop a float protesting the use of electronic voting machines in the Kenai Peninsula Borough as it moves along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A Statue of Liberty stands atop a float protesting the use of electronic voting machines in the Kenai Peninsula Borough as it moves along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Odyssey Family Practice staff, wearing fun hats to match the giant inflatable eagles they’re riding, move along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Odyssey Family Practice staff, wearing fun hats to match the giant inflatable eagles they’re riding, move along the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dozens representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula fill the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Dozens representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula fill the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A child in a tiny Jeep rolls down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A child in a tiny Jeep rolls down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A horse painted to evoke the flag of the United States saunters down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

A horse painted to evoke the flag of the United States saunters down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, during the Fourth of July Parade on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Department staff direct children in dropping targets with a water hose at the Kenai Greenstrip in Kenai, Alaska, during Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Fire Department staff direct children in dropping targets with a water hose at the Kenai Greenstrip in Kenai, Alaska, during Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Hundreds pack the Kenai Greenstrip in Kenai, Alaska, for Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Hundreds pack the Kenai Greenstrip in Kenai, Alaska, for Fourth of July festivities on Thursday, July 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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