On a bright, but windy Saturday afternoon Peninsula residents noted the continuous evolution of Soldotna’s central business district. Each took a moment to reflect on the upcoming Soldotna Progress Days, held July 26 to 27 at the Soldotna Little League Fields.
In front of a white tent housing locally made, antique jewelry at Soldotna’s Swank Street Antiques & Art Market, Brittney Magill stood beside the stroller holding her 4-year-old daughter, Maycie Tower.
Magill said the new market was a wonderful addition to the downtown area, which she has always loved for providing a unique opportunity to spend a day strolling by the shops and riverfront.
Last year was the pair’s first trip to the Progress Days parade, Magill said. She recalled the squeals of delight Maycie expressed when the community of local dachshund owners appeared 50-strong in the “Weenies on Parade” portion of the procession.
“She was so excited,” Magill said. “She wanted to pet them but they were in the parade so she couldn’t.”
Seeing such a unique branch of the Soldotna community was quite an experience, and great element of the event, Magill said.
Niksiki Resident Charlene Delago said the strength of Progress Days is how the event highlights a diversity of local interests on the central Kenai Peninsula. Everyone and anyone is welcome and can fit right in, she said.
“Anyone can come dressed up, or in their Xtratuf boots,” Delago said. “Nobody cares.”
Delago, who has been a resident in the area for more than 30 years, said she has witnessed the evolution of Soldotna as a city. She said the changes have been for better and worse.
Seeing the small mom-and-pop businesses fall to the large corporations has been disappointing, but the bigger stores also bring in a new level of exposure for the younger generations, Delago said.
Progress Days is a remarkable celebration that features the different parts of the city, Delago said.
River Kitchens, 13, has lived in Soldotna her entire life, and attends Progress Days almost every year, sometimes working the different events. She said one of the best parts of the festivities is that they are held in the summer.
“The timing is a wonderful way for the community to gather in the midst of the hectic summer months, making it possible to see friends whose schedules don’t always line up,” Kitchens said.
In preivous years Kitchens has walked in the parade with the Soldotna Boys & Girls Club.
Kitchens’ younger sister Willow said she has watched her sister walk in the parade, standing on the packed sidewalks.
“The streets are completely full,” Willow said. “But it’s not usually overwhelming.”
For Willow, the biggest draw is the items handed out during the parade.
“It’s definitely the candy,” Willow said, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet and laughing.