After a pandemic induced hiatus Alaska Day returned, in limited form, to Sitka. Alaska Day Commemorates the day that the Russian Flag was lowered, and the American Flag raised over Castle Hill (Noow Tlein in Tlingit) and the United States was internationally recognized as having sovereignty over Alaska. The celebration of the holiday has controversy attached to it. (See separate post “Reconciliation Day.”)
Most of the activities were outdoors this year. There was no ball, no firehall reception, no Pioneers’ Home tea, but there was the reenactment ceremony on the hill (which I did not attend.) a brew fest with brisket cookoff, memorial service at the National Cemetery, some church fundraisers and the parade.
The parade was all I had energy for this year. I took my normal place in the “press gallery” next to TV Dan who runs, and has run the local access cable channel, for decades. The “press gallery” is the spot behind St. Michael’s Cathedral, which sits in the middle of Lincoln Street, where I could watch the parade come head on and then turn to catch it as it went to the south of the cathedral. Before the parade I was able to chat with other photographers, including James from the Sentinel.
According to Dan, this was the shortest parade on record. Only 15 minutes. It was organized quickly. With the COVID level at high we didn’t know if it would happen. The organizers started it at the Sheldon Jackson Fine Arts Campus rather than at the roundabout, which meant that there was more street for people to spread out and social distance along.
I love parades. They bring together people from all sectors of Sitka to both line the streets and cheer and to stroll down Lincoln Street (March is too precise a word. No one marches in step.) One of the highlights of the parade was the US Coast Guard, who always draw the biggest cheer, which, instead of even trying march in step, walked down Lincoln Street with their families. I like this since the Coast Guard families are an essential part of Sitka.
The Army Band seemed smaller this year (although they were in step). And they were harder to hear because they followed the police cars, which had sirens blaring. Personally, I would rather have heard the music. If I wanted to hear sirens, I could speed down Sawmill Creek Road and they would find me. (Well, perhaps.)
Most of the marching and riding units threw out candy to the kids along the parade route. The kids carry bags and bring in a haul almost as good as Halloween. Mid-October to mid-November has to be a difficult month for teachers and parents. It was a blustery day and some of the filmy plastic grocery bags (they’ve made a comeback with the pandemic) went floating, or in some cases rocketing over the spires of St. Michael’s. SeaMart Grocery has started the tradition of handing out fruit. Roger Hames, the proprietor, came up to me and handed me a banana. Three cheers for SeaMart.
Of course, the Sitka High School Marching Band, as always, wins the prize for the most practical uniform, blue raincoats. This is Sitka in October, although this year we had no rain during the parade, just wind.
Trying to assemble a parade in a small town you sometimes see strange things driving down the street. Alaska Airlines entry was the machine that sprays deicer on the wings of aircraft. The cherry picker that rises above the wings had a big Alaska flag and the guy who usually sprays down the fuselage threw out candy.
I am a big kid and I always enjoy the fire engines that end the parade. This year the fire department did not participate. I missed seeing all the engines, especially the antique Chevy fire truck brought out for special occasions but two weeks ago I didn’t know we would even have a parade. Happy Alaska Day!