…That’s how long this year’s 4th of July parade lasted – 22 minutes. I know this because I watch the parade from just behind St. Michael’s Cathedral in the “press section.” We see the parade come at us head on and then it turns left, passing to our right, so we can get a second picture from the side. TV Dan (Dan Etulain) staked out this place several years ago and the rest of us join him. One year when he pulled his car with his TV equipment behind the church a new police officer told him he couldn’t be there, “wasn’t allowed.” That was the last time THAT happened. People want to see the replay on TV. So now I join Dan, Alaska Dave and Jamie from the Sentinel in the “press gallery.” KIFW does its live broadcast from a second-floor window just to our left.
The Alaska Day parade is longer, according to Dan’s camera counter, 35 minutes. But that makes sense. On Alaska Day (October 18) the Army Band from Anchorage is down, the bag pipers from the Seattle Fire Department are up and both the high school and junior high are in session so their bands are marching, as well as cheerleaders, and other school groups. There was only one band on the 4th this year, the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, the rest of the music was recorded, blaring through big speakers on trucks. The parade may have been shorter than normal but it seems to me a lot more people were watching it.
A new feature of the parade this year was a tour bus. This year the parade was an hour earlier than usual to accommodate the cruise ship passengers. Last year the parade was at 2 and lasted a little longer than last year. The shuttle buses carrying passengers to the cruise ship dock, 5 and a half miles out of town were blocked by the parade last year. The last shuttle was supposed to leave at 3 but there was a backlog causing the ship to leave late. This year the parade ended at 1:30 giving the tourists the chance to see the parade (although I saw more recognizable crew watching than passengers, who identify themselves by wearing lanyards with their key cards and little day glow Holland America dots on their jackets.) Guests and crew could see it and get back to Centennial Hall to catch the buses after the parade cleared. But how would the buses get back to Centennial Hall during the parade? The best way is for them to enter the parade, and then turn up Harbor Drive to the Centennial building to load tourists after the tail end of the parade passes by. That is exactly what happened. I was disappointed that the bus was not full of tourists throwing candy out the window, but some of the tour guides did toss sweets to the kids.
And that is another feature of the parade. Lots of candy is tossed from floats, cars, grocery carts and, this year, from a tour bus. Kids scramble for it; you can see it in some of the pictures. One little boy had a net but was only somewhat adept at using it. But he seemed to get his full. If you play it right July 4th and Alaska Day can bring in a better haul than Halloween. My only concern, and it is a big one, is some kids get so carried away that they run after candy in front of the floats, which do not always have great visibility. Much to its credit, SeaMart handed out bananas.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the New Archangel dancers and a lot of alumni were marching and got a lot of cheers. Barbara (Rands) Hames turns 90 this year and she rode in an antique truck to a lot of waves and cheering.
The biggest applause always goes to the Coast Guard marching by, and this year they were mostly in step, but we don’t care, they’re Sitka’s heroes. We missed the flyover by the Coast Guard Helicopters this year. The choppers were out on a rescue mission taking an ill passenger from a cruise ship in Glacier Bay to the hospital. Other than the Coasties the biggest cheers were for Parade Marshall Dan Jones and for the winning float in this year’s parade. And the winner is…..
Check out the next post of parade pics to learn the winning float.