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Story Last modified at 11:52 a.m. on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fourth celebrates 41st in Chugiak
Annual parade, festivities a longtime tradition

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

Four decades ago, just about everyone in Chugiak – from Girl Scouts to seniors, firemen to politicians –marched from the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department to Chugiak Elementary for the area's first Fourth of July Parade.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This year's edition of the Chugiak Fourth of July Parade – the 41st – will follow the same route the original one did, beginning at Latimer Hall and winding to the elementary school through the heart of downtown Chugiak.

"We'll have all kinds of floats and cars and beauty queens, all the traditional things," said Finis Shelden, one of the parade organizers.

The parade, sponsored by the Chugiak Area Business Association, the Eagle River Lions Club and the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department, is set to begin at 2 p.m.

Nancy Stahly, who is also helping organize the parade this year, said anyone wishing to participate – whether riding atop an elaborate float or simply just wanting to join the fun – should show up early to register.

"The road closes by 1:30, so people need to get there early," she said.

Stahly said prizes will be awarded in several categories.

Following the conclusion of the parade, Shelden said people can gather at the end of the route, where refreshments will be available.

"There will be vendors down at the end there," he said.

The parade will be the culmination of an Independence Day weekend expected to attract thousands of people to Chugiak and Eagle River for a range of activities.

Though the parade will be the grand finale, the biggest draw of the weekend is likely to be the annual fireworks show at Eagle River Lions Park, which begins at the stroke of midnight on Monday, July 4.

Shelden said that if the weather's good, more than 6,000 people are likely to gather on Sunday evening at and around the park, which is located at Mile 1.5 Eagle River Road near Wal-Mart.

"If they don't get there by 8:30 or 9 o'clock, they'll be walking a ways," Shelden said.

Shelden said Fire Art by Griz is putting on the show, which he said will likely last between 15 and 20 minutes.

The midnight fireworks will wrap up an evening of entertainment that begins at 6 p.m. with kids' games, prizes and a beer garden. Shelden said live music will be performed on both a main stage and in the beer garden, with the USAF Band of the Pacific, the Alaska Celtic Pipes/Drums band, "Our Pal" Al Nagel, Eric Braendel, Johnny Wade and the John Hilborn Band all set to make appearances.

The night's events will also include skydivers and a flyover from U.S. Air Force jets from nearby Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

"Basically what we've got is a full evening of entertainment," he said.

And – just like it's been for the past 40 years – admission to both events is free.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, June 29, 2011.