Seems like I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my writing life lately–time to get back to Alaska history!
October 18 is Alaska Day. This is the date in 1867 when Russia handed over Alaska to the United States. The ceremony took place in Sitka, Alaska’s capitol at the time, and representatives from both countries officiated. One hundred Russian soldiers lined up on the left side of the flagpole and 250 American troops in full uniform stood to the right. A cannon salute was fired, the Russian flag was lowered, and Captain Pestchouroff said to the American commander, “General Rousseau, by authority from his Majesty the Emperor of Russia I transfer to the United States the Territory of Alaska.” General Rousseau accepted, the American flag went up, and that was that.
Sometimes formal pomp and circumstance doesn’t go as planned–oops. One account on the Alaska Day Festival website states, “The Russian flag stuck fast in the lanyards during its lowering. Several soldiers were unsuccessful in their attempts to climb the flagpole and free the flag. A sling was rigged and a Russian soldier raised to the flag, but he dropped it after freeing it. Gasps were heard as the flag dropped onto the Russian soldiers’ bayonets. The ceremony continued with the quick raising of the American flag.”
Today, the date is marked by a state office holiday and a few local celebrations in Alaskan towns. Sitka has the best; their Alaska Day Festival lasts several days including races, dances, entertainment, and a reenactment of the transfer ceremony. See more about the history and their festival on their website, http://alaskadayfestival.org.