Although the Progress Days parade was peppered with political campaign floats as it wound its way through Soldotna, most of the focus was on fun and community.
Most of the candidates for the state races relevant to the central Kenai Peninsula took the opportunity for face-time with Soldotna-area residents during the 61st annual Progress Days parade Saturday. Gubernatorial candidates Bill Walker, Mike Dunleavy and Mead Treadwell, District O senatorial candidates Peter Micciche and Ron Gillham, District 29 House candidate Wayne Ogle and District 30 candidate Gary Knopp all marched down Marydale Avenue toward the Kenai Peninsula Borough administration building, where the judges’ table stood. The two opposing campaigns for and against Ballot Measure 1 — known as the Stand for Salmon initiative — also marched in the parade, with supporters carrying a massive sockeye salmon replica down the street.
But the businesses, schools and organizations outnumbered the politicians, distributing candy and playing music as they marched. The Forever Dance Alaska studio brought a crowd of dancers performing a number set to the theme from the Pixar movie “The Incredibles,” jumping and lunging on their way down the road. The Apostolic Assembly of Christ loaded up a full band with speakers and a mass of balloons labeled “the Joy Dispenser.” The residents of Heritage Place, Central Peninsula Hospital’s skilled nursing facility, rolled by laden with balloons and candy and tissue paper flowers.
The Progress Days parade is a hallmark of the annual festivities organized by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, which take over the city and Soldotna Creek Park for the weekend. The events began Friday night with a homesteader meet and greet at the Soldotna Historical Museum, and the market and live music began in Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday morning. The market and live music continue into Sunday, when the city of Soldotna hosts a free community barbecue.