Alaska Day is our day. Sitka goes all out because this is where it happened on October 18, 1867, when Alaska moved from Russia to the US, from one side of the dateline to the other, and from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The forecast was for high wind and lots of rain. The rain held off until after the parade and the lowering of the Russian and raising of the American flag on Castle Hill. Then it came, and let it come.
Sitka loves its holiday. My day started with, I think, the best loved tradition of the holiday, the Seattle Firefighters Pipe and Drum Corps being hosted at an open house at the Sitka Fire Hall. Of all the songs that mean Alaska Day to me, after The Alaska Flag Song, it has to be Scotland the Brave. The Seattle firefighters come every year. There is the open house at the Russian Bishop’s House, the parade, the reenactment ceremony, the Pioneer’s Home tea, the roller derby bout against Wrangell and finally fireworks over Jamestown Bay.
The parade this year was the longest on record, according to the record keeper, Dan Etulain from the local TV station. He judges the length by how much video tape he burns. This year it was 43 minutes long. I watched the parade from the “Press Area” at the back of the cathedral. It comes straight at us and then turns to go around the Russian Church, giving the TV crew the choice of hear on or on the side views. There were two TV crews this year, Dan’s local TV station and Rustavi 2 TV from Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. I am not sure why Tbilisi was represented, perhaps Georgia likes a commemoration in which Russia loses territory. The press section was rounded out by James from the paper and me. The parade starts with the Coast Guard flyover, we missed that last year because of the government shut down, and the army band from Fairbanks. And then came every civic group, political candidate and school group you can think of. This year we had a big helium filled Alaska Airlines Airplane. Sitka is going New York! Every float seems to throw out candy, for the kids it’s better than Halloween. Sitka Sea Mart was the class act this year’s parade, they handed out fresh fruit! It’s our day and we love it.