FAIRBANKS — First Avenue was lined with spectators Saturday morning, eager for the Golden Days Grande Parade to begin when the beating of drums was heard. 

The drums grew louder as they got closer, and soon Fort Knox Gold Mine employees were handing out lollipops to excited children. The Army band was not far behind, marching with its drums and trombones, making parade music.

There were 77 entries in the parade this year with a full spectrum of floats.

The Pioneers of Alaska had one of the quintessential Golden Days floats. Their float was a representation of the Lavelle Young with old-timey fiddle music being played from the deck of the riverboat. 

Golden Heart Performing Arts and Alaska Universal Productions provided acrobatic entertainment on aerial silks. There was an LGBT pride float, politicians, bagpipers, antique cars, a llama, a man dancing in a pink gorilla suit and much more. 

After a week of constant rain, Aileen Valdez, a lifelong Fairbanksan, didn’t think the weather would hold up. But she was happy the sun came out from behind the clouds just in time for the parade. 

“It’s not as good as the parade I just went to at Disneyland,” Valdez said with a bit of sarcasm. “But my kid got excited about the fire trucks (Saturday), so I think that was my favorite part about it.”

Aileen’s husband, Daniel Valdez, said the parade was great except for the politicians. 

“There could be less politics in the parade. That doesn’t need to be here,” Daniel Valdez said. 

Ember Clayton, 6, who will be in second grade, said her favorite part of the parade was the band Shagg because she got to dance to their music and she thought the band was funny, too.

She also liked the llama.

“The llama was funny because it was so hairy,” Clayton said. 

The parade marched its way to the downtown area, where it ended at Noble Street and Gaffney Road, next to the Golden Days Fair. 

Cpl. Tessa McKittrick, of Wasilla, marched in the parade with the Alaska National Guard. 

“It was fun — a nice walk,’ McKittrick said. “It was funny to see all the people playing Pokemon on the sidelines this time. This is my second year in the parade and I like doing it a lot.” 

McKittrick then ran off to get falafel at the Golden Days Fair. 

PARADE WINNERS

Best Youth Entry: Farthest North Girl Scouts

Best Marching: Fairbanks Red Hackle Pipe Band 

Best Sustaining: Everets Air Cargo

Best Non-commercial: Raven Home School 

Best Commercial: Golden Heart Performing Arts and Alaska Universal Productions

Contact staff writer Kevin Baird at 459-7575.

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