It was a small town festival and I was beginning to wonder if my recommendation to a friend that Sitka was a great place to live was going to blow up in my face. I mean, I’ve lived here for 35 years. I get bobbing for fish heads followed by a fish head toss. But I was afraid that my friend who just moved here on my recommendation must have thought he had landed in the middle of the asylum. Not to worry, he took these highlights of the Sitka Seafood Festival in stride, as part of the zaniness that is Sitka.
The bobbing contest had the rogues’ gallery of Sitka Press snapping and taping away, this being one of the biggest sporting events in town. The contestants put on their goggles and tried to get the fish heads, which do not float like apples, they just sit on the bottom of the tote. One little girl was bobbing even though she had lost her front teeth earlier in the week. Nothing stops hearty Sitkans. And there were prizes.
The fish head toss is not for distance, but a game of catch between two partners. The head cannot touch the ground. The junior division tossed salmon heads, the adults had to wrestle halibut. I got one strange photo where the salmon heads are in focus and everything else in the photo is soft.
I cannot enjoy much of the festival. There’s a seafood banquet with dishes prepared by master chefs but I’m seriously allergic to seafood. So most of the outdoor food stands selling different fish delicacies are also off limits (as they are to my friend, also so allergic.) But I could get reindeer hotdogs and baked minions made, in part, from Twinkies by the Sitka Sound Slayers roller derby team. I guess they need to eat Twinkies to get their aggression levels up.
Of course there was the seafood parade. Typical of Sitka parades sea creatures riding on floats threw candy to Sitkans and several confused cruise ship passengers lining the parade route. My doctor, who knows well my allergies saw me and reached inside his Helly, pulled out a can of sardines and tossed it to me. I guess he was testing to see if I had my epi pen. I didn’t take the bait.
A highlight of the festival for me is the annual Sitka Seafood Festival Highland Games where bekilted athletes, men and women, throw stuff, from rocks to bales of hay to hammers to telephone poles. These really are amazing feats of strength and when it comes to throwing the telephone poles (they call them cabers) coordination as well. Among the spectators were several people speaking many different languages off the cruise ships that were in town. Some looked confused, some surprised to find highland games in Sitka. Why not? The most beloved tradition of Sitka’s Alaska Day Festival is the Pipe and Drum band from the Seattle Fire Department.
Sitka is good at festivals, we have chamber music festivals, jazz festivals, history festivals, seafood festivals, arts festivals, even a whale festival. I think one reason we have all of these festivals is because we can’t drive to other people’s festivals, we have to do it ourselves. I love my town.