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These days and those days

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For Soldotna Progress Days parade-goers, motivations for turning out on the cloudy Saturday morning boiled down to one of two things: community or candy.

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Anyone under the age of 16 only had eyes for the latter and employed various tactics to maximize candy acquisition: some believed shrieks and sheer volume were key, while others played on the sympathies of the treat-throwers by assuming a forlorn look about them or hiding the massive plastic bag of candy they had already managed to fill.

Parade society quickly descended into a state of every kid for himself, with each child battling his or her neighbor for access to the coveted Skittles and Sour Punch Straws. The weak walked away with peppermints and flyers for borough mayor candidates they weren't even old enough to vote for.

Meanwhile the adults sat back, socialized with neighbors, and enjoyed seeing the various political figures and community associations walk, ride, and drive by.

Wally and Dawn Kanarowski have been living just outside of Soldotna for the past 25 years. They try to attend not only the Progress Days parade, but every parade in the area.

"My favorite part is seeing the new things and seeing some old friends," said Wally while pointing out passerby to his wife.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey strolled by waving the American flag, prompting Wally to lament Carey's decision not to run for a second term.

"I thought he was a very wise man, very level-headed," Wally said. "He's done a lot for this area."

"He's here faithfully every year," echoed Dawn.

Wally and Dawn watched as a black car bearing a Sweeney's sign slid by and chatted about their fondness for the owners of the local store. The couple remembers when Sweeney's didn't even exist; they remember when they got to Soldotna in 1986, there was hardly even a town.

"There wasn't even a stoplight," Wally laughed while Dawn added that the installation of new stoplights has been a steady gauge with which to measure their time spent in Soldotna.

While the Kanarowskis had seen their fair share of Progress Days parades, newcomers also turned out to enjoy the antique cars, decorative floats, and deluge of dachshunds that was Weenies on Parade.

"It's a great hometown parade; lots of fun for the kids," said Kay Shock, who just moved to Soldotna on July 1 to become the pastor at Soldotna United Methodist Church. "I think everybody likes the little doggies the best."

Shock has lived in Alaska for 10 years, and in all her time has not seen a town with nearly as many festivities and events as Soldotna, she said.

The Progress Days parade is a reflection of the very community it purports to represent: it remains the same in some respects, but continues to grow and gain new participants each and every year.

"It's always getting better," Wally said of Soldotna. "It's always growing and it's going to keep growing. Let's hope it doesn't get as big as Anchorage.

"There's a lot of good to come yet," he advised. "Some of the stuff you don't want to see change because you get set in your own ways and habits, but you have to accept the change. You have to. Because it's always going to come."

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