The rain held off for two of the three Progress Days festivities. Market Daze, the new kick-off for the traditional summer festival began Thursday afternoon under warm sunny skies with new fun events for kids and a “Sip & Paint” for ladies at The Market led by Diana Bland, “The Sip & Paint business model is a nationwide movement that basically is an evening of entertainment with something to do besides drink an adult beverage. I’ve had customers say to me it’s nice to take something home besides a hangover. The idea is to loosen your creativity and have fun and fellowship with friends,” explained Bland. Vendor booths were set up throughout the day at The Market which culminated with a foot stomping performance from Black Water Rail Road from Seward.
The weather held off through Saturday for the 59th Progress Days parade where WWII Veteran and Alaskan pioneer Al Hershberger, who was at the first parade joined the judges table. “There were very few people at that first parade,” recalled Hershberger for the Dispatch, “But that period of time it seemed like a whole bunch of people and I suppose we had close to a hundred people there. But what a difference today and what Soldotna has become in these years,” he said. Hershberger recalled in one of the early parades a fellow who drove down the Spur Hwy blindfolded through a series of barrels, “It was a star attraction that year and a guy came down from Anchorage and they set up a bunch of barrels in Joe’s corral on the Spur Rd. it was corral behind his house and we set up barrels there and the guy blindfolded himself and we inspected the blindfold to be sure he couldn’t see and then he got in the car and drove around these barrels missing every one of them. It must have been a trick but we never found out but that was the star attraction, so the parade itself has certainly seen a lot of progress, even though some folks seem to drive like they are wearing blindfolds,” laughed Hershberger. The judge’s favorites for this year’s parade included the overall first place winner Forever Dance Alaska. The Anchorage Corvette Assoc. to top Auto honors, best organization went to the Apostolic Assembly of Jesus Christ Church, best horse entry was Alaska C&C Horse Adventures and Trinity Greenhouse won best business with the 40th year Anniversary float. Josiah & Darius Martin won best bicycles.
Then came Sunday and the free picnic sponsored by the City of Soldotna and then came the rain! “We cooked and served a lot of sausages today, but we have a lot of left over too,” said Mark Dixon manning the ConocoPhillips grill with Ralph Linn and volunteers from the city that were serving the sausage and chips under the pavilion. “Alaskans are a hardy bunch and a little rain never deters folks,” commented Soldotna event coordinator Andy Rash.