Nothing could rain on Kenai’s annual “Honoring our Hometown Heros” Independence Day parade this year — not even rain.
Huddled under blankets, umbrellas and tents, area residents waved flags, cheered on parade participants and darted forward for flying candy. Exclamations of “Happy Fourth!” and “Happy Birthday, America!” floated through the streets as the parade progressed toward the park strip on Main Street Loop.
Tiffany Allemann, who attended the parade with her husband and their four children, said the rain did not dampen their weekend plans in the slightest.
“We just moved back (from Anchorage,) but we come to the parade every year,” Allemann said. “We grew up here.”
Allemann said she plans to spend the holiday weekend barbecuing with family and friends. Her nephew, Alex Pankion, enjoyed “when the motorcycles came through,” he said.
“I know what her favorite part was,” Pankion said, pointing to his sister, Charlotte Pankion.
“Horses!” she exclaimed.
Joe and Carol Harrison have lived in Alaska since they moved from Oregon in 1983. They have not missed a single Independence Day parade since. Sheltered under umbrellas on a hill overlooking the parade, they enjoyed themselves despite the weather.
“We came prepared,” Carol Harrison explained. “You take the entertainment when you find it.”
For the Harrison’s, Independence Day holds a special place in their family. Joe Harrison’s father fought in World War II, while his wife’s father died fighting at the Battle of the Bulge in 1945.
“We have a grandson who spent two tours in Iraq,” Joe Harrsion said. “We had a son in the Marine Corps.”
Tracy and Matthew Lay also enjoyed the day’s festivities with their 4-year-old daughter, Lorelie.
“I like the parade,” she said.
Lay explained that the horses were one of her favorite parts, pointing them out to her parents as they came down the street.
“Church is more fun,” she added.
Following the 11 a.m. parade, community members enjoyed an array of food, activities and vendors sponsored by local businesses and organizations at the Midway Festivities from noon to 4 p.m.
Buck Steiner, who has lived in Kenai since 1967, held a sign around his neck outside the Kenai Senior Connection, Inc. vendor booth, enticing passersby to stop for a hot dog or other food.
Steiner said he was grateful the steady drizzle did not turn into a pouring rain while he volunteered.
He said he has enjoyed volunteering for and celebrating Independence Day in Kenai for several years.
“It’s the same as anywhere else in the world,” Steiner said. “It’s a celebration of joy.”
One activity that proved popular among younger community members was the fighting ring set up by the Kenai chapter of Amtgard of Alaska, a live action role play group that “combines history and fantasy to create an exciting experience,” according to the group’s website.
Garrett Eady, of Kenai, said this year marks the second time the Kenai chapter has set up shop at the Midway Festivities.
“We looked it up and found the chapter in Anchorage. They were like, “Hey, we’re looking to start a chapter in Kenai,” Eady said. “The general rule is that anything that could have existed prior to 1650 — you know, pre-gun powder — if it could have existed back then…we’re pretty OK with it.”
For $1, friends and family members could fight each other for three rounds with foam swords, according to the group’s rules of combat.
Eady said the group’s presence at the park strip is more about awareness than making money.
The Kenai chapter meets at 1 p.m. every Sunday at South Forest Park, and participates in activities across the state with other chapters.
“We get a lot of excitement over our fighting ring. People like to hit their friends or strangers with foam sticks,” Eady said. “We want to give younger people, high schoolers and whatnot, something creative and constructive to do with their time.”