For a good old-fashioned Fourth of July, give me small town Alaska, particularly Wrangell or Haines!
The quality of Independence Day celebrations in these towns that makes it different from most other places is the level of participation. Most of the day’s activities in the smaller towns (I hear Skagway’s very much like this, but I’ve never been to their celebration) rely heavily on community participation—not just in the parade, but in events and contests for all ages, foot races, tugs-of-war, egg tosses and the like.
In my opinion, Wrangell’s the best. There’s a saying, “Muslims go to Mecca, Wrangellites go to Wrangell on the Fourth of July.” Anyone connected to the town (I went to high school there) tries to make it, and everyone turns out for the games. I’ve only managed to take my family to Wrangell for one Independence Day, but that’s all it took—they wanted more!
Haines has a community field day after the parade, which is much like this, only on a smaller scale: more spectating, less participating. Still, it’s the essence of this American holiday: entertainment of the People, By the People, For the People! Also, some of it’s a matter of timing. Some events that Wrangell holds on the Fourth, like logger competitions, Haines hold during the Southeast Alaska Fair at the end of July.
Juneau and Douglas have similar events, but there the spectator/participant ratio is far higher. Douglas has firehose fights between Fire Departments. In Haines, anyone who wants to suits up with the Fire Men and Women and helps hold a hose against a rival team. Which would you rather do?
One Haines event I’ve not seen anywhere else: mud volleyball! I don’t participate in this, but those who do seem to have a total blast. It’s fun to watch—from well outside the splatter zone.
This year, the Haines fireworks display will be larger in honor of the town’s centennial. Our battle plan is perfect. We’ll have Beth and Kim’s RV “Bertha,” to serve as our family’s Herkimer Battle Jitney. With it, we can all stay in town in reasonable comfort to catch the fireworks, which due to our long hours of summer daylight start after 11:00 pm, without having to hike home afterward. No doubt we’ll have favorite picnic foods and other treats to sustain us through a grueling schedule of events!
Life is good. Happy Independence Day from Alaska!