PALMER— This 2018 Colony Days parade birthed a historic moment for the Mat-Su Valley when the Mat-Su NOW group marched in line with the other floats.
The streets of downtown Palmer shimmered briefly with rainbow colors, and according to marchers and onlookers, everything went off without a hitch and there was no backlash that sunny day.
“I feel great about it. We had a lot of support and garnered a lot of interest,” said Mat-Su NOW past president and current treasurer, Barbara McDaniel.
The Mat-Su NOW is the Valley’s chapter for a national organization centered on women’s rights as well as the LGBTQ community. About 30 people marched with them during the Colony Days parade over the weekend.
McDaniel said that she’s been to her fair share of pride marches in Anchorage and Talkeetna but seeing the rainbow flags fly in the Valley was a “historic first.”
“I’ve never seen anything like that here,” McDaniel said.
Palmer Downtown Deli owner Kevin Brown was busy helping customers while the parade strolled by, but with a window-side view, he was right next to the action. Brown said he was pleasantly surprised to see the rainbows in his line of sight.
“It was heartwarming to see it,” Brown said.
Brown has been a business owner in Palmer for several years and this moment in history affirmed what drew him here in the first place, a juxtaposition between old fashioned, small town coziness mixed with creative thinking and support.
“It’s one of those things that I love about Palmer. That can happen,” Brown said.
The idea of coming out, rainbows blasting, may have seemed more daunting in the past but the success of the first Pride demonstration affirmed to McDaniel, “a product of the 60’s” that times are changing.
The Colony Days Parade has been a tradition for about 30 years. Often times, it’s a melting pot of various walks of life from across the Valley who attend the parade. There were no boos or any other unsavory outbursts from the sidelines, according to McDaniel.
“People were either very supportive or quiet,” McDaniel said.
Jenny Chesbro grew up in the Valley. She marched with Mat-Su NOW, feeling compelled by the cause.
“I’m grateful to have been able to take part in a local Pride event and show support for my local LGBTQIA+ family,” Chesbro said.
Mat-Su NOW won a Colony Days award for the “best community service group” for their entry in the parade, christening their presence into new annual tradition.
Brown was proud of the sheer civility of it all. He’s marched at other Pride events in the past. Although he said that, physically, he may not be able to march as much anymore, he is still proudly witnessing acceptance right outside his window.
“I saw floats from across entire political spectrum and everyone got along,” Brown said.
Some people approached Mat-Su NOW after the parade and inquired about meeting times. McDaniel said that Mat-Su NOW leadership is termed out and needs new officers. They need new people to plan for next year’s parade and their continued efforts. The next meeting will be August 18 at 11 a.m.
“I think change and new generations are great- so long as that change takes us in a positive direction,” McDaniel said.
2018 Colony Days Parade Winners:
Overall 1st: Percussion in the Valley
Overall 2nd: Jonathan’s Reptiles
Overall 3rd: Immanuel Baptist Church
Business Category: Jonathan’s Reptiles
Political Category: Alyse Galvin for Alaska
Public Safety Category: State of Alaska Division of Forestry
Family/Children/Pets Category: Immanuel Baptist Church
Vehicle Category: Antique Power Club
Royalty/Fraternal Category: Miss Alaska Angelina Klapperich
Agriculture Category: RODEO ALASKA
Music/Dance Category: Percussion in the Valley
Community Service Organization Category: Mat-Su NOW