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Ketchikan celebrates Fourth of July: Crowds assemble for fun and festivities
A young girl covers her ears to soften a fire truck siren on Thursday during the Fourth of July Parade on Mill Street. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Daily News Staff Writer

Thursday was a Fourth of July celebration to be remembered in Ketchikan, with locals and visitors alike enjoying a beautiful day and some fine traditional events in the First City.

The centerpiece of the day was the annual Fourth of July parade, which once again attracted people to line the streets from the West End to Stedman Street.

However, before the parade, it looked like traffic issues might affect people traveling into the downtown area from the north and south ends of the community.

A late morning car fire near U.S. Coast Guard Base Ketchikan and a vehicle collision on North Tongass Highway near Wolfe Point occured at about the same time, prompting the Alaska State Troopers to issue a text notice about potential traffic delays. Both incidents were cleared prior to the start of the parade.

Before the main parade got underway, the kids parade rolled out from the Federal Building parking lot and on to Mill Street. A platoon of youngsters on star-spangled bicycles and scooters — and in strollers, wagons, baby carriers and kid-sized electric vehicles — were joined by parents and several dogs on the route around the curve and on to the downtown tunnel.

A short time later, the runners who were participating in the “Run Like It’s 1776’ race sponsored by the Ketchikan Running and Walking Club began reaching the downtown area.

Brent Capps was first to finish the 1.776-mile race that began at Madison Lumber & Hardware and ended at the New York Cafe. Anneliese Hiatt came in second, followed soon after by Trevor Dash and Katie Sivertsen.    

One of the First City’s fine Fourth of July traditions continued this year as a Temsco helicopter piloted by Eric Eichner and carrying a large American flag flew high over the parade route to signal the start of the event at 1 p.m., an hour later than in recent past years.

The 2019 parade started near Madison Lumber and Hardware, heading south down Tongass Avenue toward downtown.

Parade-goers along the route were treated to mild temperatures in the mid- to upper-60s, cooled by a gentle north-northwest wind — a climate that proved comfortable for many people watching and participating in the parade.

In the downtown area, there was ample space on the new sidewalks, which are broader in most areas than the previous sidewalks. As the parade reached Front Street, led by Ketchikan Police Department and Alaska State Troopers vehicles with lights and sirens on, the route kept to the freshly paved areas on the water side of Front Street before making use of the full (and newly paved) roadway around the Front and Mill street curve.

Towering in the background was the Holland-American Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the five ships scheduled to bring more than 11,750 passengers to the First City on Thursday. Some of the Nieuw Amsterdam passengers made good use of their cabins’ balconies to watch the parade.

After the police vehicles and a U.S. Coast Guard color guard passed by, local Scouts carrying a banner of the 2019 parade theme — “Ketchikan Strong,”Building a Bright Future” — were followed by the 2019 grand marshal, Chuck Hanas, waving from a vehicle.

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor David Landis and City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen walked the route, with Siversten handing out U.S. flags and Landis handing out red, white and blue pinwheels to spectators along the route.

Next was  Jacquie Meck, the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

Then, a group from the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 64 of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, passed by. Station 64 members came up from Prince Rupert and met on Thursday morning with members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Ketchikan Flotilla before the parade. Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain was in attendance, as well.

Then came the full variety of favorite Ketchikan parade participants.

These included the VFW Ragnar Myking Post 4352, South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department and Tatsuda’s IGA. The Cape Fox Dancers had a large contingent dressed in regalia, singing, drumming and dancing and they were trailed by three vehicles from Cape Fox Lodge.

A PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center entry highlighted the facility’s new Genius 3D Mammography system.

As is tradition, there was an entry from each of the Class of 1969, Class of 1979, Class of 1989, Class of 1999 and Class of 2009. The Class of 1989 appeared to have the largest contingent, and were able to make the semi-trailer they were riding on bounce as they jumped in unison to the music.

Also as per tradition was a float carrying members of the incoming senior Class of 2020, whose theme was “Living in Color.”

The parade also had representatives of the two major Fourth of July fundraisers — the KRBD skiff raffle and the First City Rotary Duck Race. The Ketchikan Lions Club, which has long been involved in the Ketchikan community’s fireworks display, participated also.

Fraternal organizations were represented, too, with the Loyal Order of Moose 224 and the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 162. The Eagles’ entry even had a miniature pool table on board.

A group of students, some wearing kimonos, and parents represented the Ketchikan —Gero — Kanayama Exchange Program.

There were several other youth activity entries in the 2019 parade, as well.

These included Ketchikan Little League All-Star teams for the 8-10 age group baseball and softball, Majors baseball and Junior baseball, in addition to the 8-10 softball All-Stars. The KLL softball Major and Junior All-Stars have been competing this week in regional tournaments in Sitka and Juneau, respectively.

Studio Max participated with its students clad in “Aladdin” themed costumes and performing synchronized routines as they passed by. The Ketchikan Gymnastics Club athletes — and coaches — performed handsprings and round-offs along the route.

And although away from water, swimmers and coaches from the Ketchikan Killer Whales Swim Club participated in the parade, as well.

Tour businesses that had representation in the parade included the Alaska Amphibious Tours, Adventure Karts Expeditions and Alaska Canopy Adventures.

Madison Lumber & Hardware had an entry titled “Uncle Salmon,” with some participants in unique Uncle Salmon costumes.

Other business participants includeds a Southeast Alaska Elevator/Legacy Real Estate combination, and the First Student bus company that provides transportation services for the Ketchikan School District.

The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad had its communication van and several KVRS members in the parade, which also featured participation by Coast Guard Station Ketchikan and the Coast Guard Auxiliary Ketchikan Flotilla.

The Ketchikan Fire Department had a ladder truck and fire engine in the parade. And the final entry was fire apparatus and members of the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department.

Later in the day, parade judges announced their choices for honors in three categories.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center’s entry was chosen as the best interpretation of the parade theme. The VFW entry was deemed most patriotic. Cape Fox was honored as the most representative of Ketchikan.

As nice as the mid-day weather was, the early evening was even nicer as First City Rotary members released a mass of small plastic ducks that began floating their way down Ketchikan Creek toward the Stedman Street bridge.

That’s where Clay Keene, dressed in a fine blue commodore-like costume, waited with two others in a Lund skiff to scoop up the winning ducks for the Rotary’s annual duck race.

While hundreds of people looked on from various vantage points along the creek and Creek Street, the ducks seemed to make their way relatively unimpeded to the finish chute, and soon the top three ducks had been captured.

The winning duck was associated with ticket 999, but only had the name “Violet” on it in what appeared to be kid’s writing, according to Rotary’s Michelle O’Brien. She noted later that the tickets have phone numbers, and Rotary would be contacting the winner by phone.

That first-place duck was worth $2,500.  The second-place duck, valued at $1,500, belonged to Rick and Kristi Gross. Nick Lawrence had purchased the ticket for the third-place duck.

As the day continued, the Great Alaskan Lumberkack Show was host to the 2019 Ironjack Championships. The community fireworks show was scheduled to start at around 11 p.m., which was after the Ketchikan Daily News’ presstime.