This is a reprise from a 2013 post on this blog. Happy Independence Day!
Historically, Alaskans are big on celebrating the 4th of July. Even before we became a state, territorial residents made a point of partying on Independence Day. In my research, I’ve seen photos of parades in Skagway in 1898 and Nome in 1900, and a huge crowd celebrating in Fairbanks in 1904. (The featured image is from Nome in 1916.) And those are just the settings I researched from my writings–I’m sure there are many more photos in archives and collections.
Independence Day celebrations in Alaska usually featured a parade, speeches, and some kind of games. I’ve read about baseball games, canoe races, rock-drilling contests, and eating contests. Workers at the Treadwell Mine in Douglas, near Juneau, held fire department hose races; you had to carry the hose a certain distance, connect to the hydrant, and start the water running.
Today the tradition continues, with many Alaskan towns holding 4th of July celebrations. Anchorage, Seward, Valdez, Sitka, Juneau, Wasilla, Fairbanks, Whittier, Kenai, Tok, Seldovia–all have events that pop up with a quick online search, and I’m sure smaller communities have plans too. Most have parades and family activities. Anchorage always hosts a double-header game followed by fireworks, but to be honest, the fireworks aren’t very impressive when it’s still light out. Many Alaskans’ favorite Independence Day celebration is Seward’s Mount Marathon Race, which reportedly started as a bar bet in 1915 and involves running up and down the mountain. Only the brave and sturdy need apply, but everyone can watch the runners from downtown.
What will I be doing? I’ll attend the local parade, stick around for the reading of the Declaration of Independence, and buy something yummy from a local vendor for lunch. And I’ll give thanks for our democracy and its traditions.
Wishing you a good Independence Day, wherever you are!