WASILLA — The city of Wasilla’s annual Independence Day Parade and subsequent Mayor’s Picnic drew hundreds of people from across the Valley to the city’s downtown district and Iditapark Thursday.

“From businesses to government, it takes all these people coming together to make our city work every day,” HeatSource Mechanical, Inc. owner Shawn Fuller said.

Following years of tradition, the city shut down certain streets for the parade and fed everyone with free hot dogs and cold drinks. A spectrum of colorful parade goers strolled through town, most adorned with red, white and blue.

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The lively crowd rooted for all the passing floats. From the live horses and roaring race car engines to the local businesses and nonprofits, every walk of life walked down the parade route.

Several military members partook in the parade while others helped conduct traffic in their uniforms while temperatures reached the 90s.

“It’s totally amazing. These guys are giving up their time for their community,” Fuller said.

Auntie’s Corner Café owner Stacy Chapman took part in the parade. She runs the new café off the Palmer-Wasilla Highway with her daughter Gina Chapman.

This was the first time she walked representing her new business but she said that she was in the same parade 12 or 13 years ago. She said that she participated in the parade to support the U.S. troops.

“We like to add patriotism to the parade… We just like to celebrate our country. It’s very, very important to this family,” Chapman said.

Chapman said that she has several family members who’ve served in the military. She noted that her simple float will be bigger and better next year.

“You can’t have too many flags or patriotic music,” Chapman said. “My dad taught me there was no better place to be.”

Chapman has lived in the Valley for over 21 years and is a lifelong Alaskan. She said that she appreciates that “Alaskan attitude” most people have up here, meaning people are apt to help others in need.

“If someone is in a ditch, you help them out,” Chapman said.

HeatSource Mechanical, Inc. sponsored the hot dog eating contests with Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle and Director of Recreation Services Joan Klapperich overseeing.

“Just here to support the community and support the people giving us the freedom,” Fuller said.

The winners posed with Cottle for pictures. Aside from bragging rights, the adult winner received concert tickets for the Alaska State Fair and the children won unlimited carnival rides at the Summerfest Carnival at the Menard Center.

Several adults and children competed at this year’s contests, including Nick Methven who won the adult contest.

“Nothing more American than July 4 and hot dogs,” Methven said with a laugh.

With over 13 years of competitive eating under his belt, he accelerated past the competition, finishing with eight dogs.

“I wanted to do 12,” Methven said.

Methven has even competed against the famous competitive eater, Joey Chestnut, at the World Rib Eating Championship. He’s a dentist at Aurora Dental Care, known affectionately by his patients as “Dr. Nick.”

Fuller said that he was happy to see more participation with high caliber contenders like Methven.

“It was much better than last year,” Fuller said.

Methven said that he still had room in his stomach when the contest was over. Someone from the crowd told him to eat one more dog. He did.

“I don’t want it to go to waste,” Methven said.

Methven said that he plans to come back next year and will probably train more beforehand. He wants to defend his title and down 12 dogs within the three minute window of time.

“Always gotta’ come back to defend. That’s the rules,” Methven said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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