Fourth of July Queen competition officially launches


Brian O'Connor/ Wrangell Sentinel

The Fourth of July Queen candidates pose for a photo at the Queen campaign kickoff event Saturday at the Stikine Inn. The candidates are (rear row from left) Cassie Schilling, Delila Wigg, Erica Smith, and (front row from right) Robyn Booker and Kira Torvend.

Officials kicked off the annual fourth of July festivities with food and speeches Saturday evening.

Queen candidates introduced their teams and delivered an opening address. Food booths, a mainstay of the annual queen competition, opened Sunday morning in the alley between Wells Fargo and the Elks Lodge.

The competition, in which local residents buy tickets to vote for their favorite queen candidates up until the winner is announced in July, is the official launch not only of the heated competition for the crown, but also the jumping-off point for the Fourth of July festivities, which culminate during the week of the event with a borough-wide celebration. Profits from the celebration go to individual competitors, local charities, and toward the subsequent year's festivities.

"Right now you guys are going to go out and sell tickets, and from right now it's going to be crazy until the Third of July," said Tammi Meissner, who coordinated the event along with Shawna Buness.

In their speeches, candidates like Delila Wigg reflected on the influence the local Fourth of July festival had on them. Wigg said the celebrations were among her fondest memories of Wrangell.

"I have spent many of my younger years here in Wrangell," she said. "Something that has been a strong, joyous memory of mine was the Fourth of July. Fireworks, food, laughter and family filled the streets of Wrangell for a day, rain or shine."

The process of running for queen – many candidates alluded to months of pavement pounding, food preparation, and public campaigning – was invigorating, Wigg said.

"As I have gone through life looking back on that time, pondering what made that day so special, as life has taken me on many journeys, it has led me back here to Wrangell," she said. "I've been here for a little under two years. Moving back changed my life. Starting out was not easy. However, with time, patience and dedication, things started to flow for me, and for the first time in years, I feel like I'm truly living. I feel alive."The experience also made Wigg proud to call Wrangell home.

"With so much support from our amazing community, I am blessed and beyond proud to call Wrangell my home," she said.

The campaign was intended to give back, Wigg said.

"This Fourth of July will finally make my dream come true, and I will give our community all that I have and more because this is my chance to give back to our amazing, gracious and welcoming community," she said. "So let's all come together to support our special little town so much."

Alaska Waters, Alaska Vistas, Grand View B&B, Ottesen's True Value, and Oliver Construction are Wigg's sponsoring businesses. Her ticket manager is Rachel Coblentz, and her food manager is Bulmaro Ramirez.

Other candidates, like joint candidates Robyn Booker and Kira Torvend, mutually proclaimed best friends forever, are short on nostalgia, if long on ambition and charity.

"We are running for queen so we can raise enough money to go to the marine biology camp called Sea Trek," Robyn said. "Some things we will be learning at this camp are diving, navigating and tagging marine life. By going to this camp we will get a Head Start on our education."

The two youngest candidates for queen also pledged to donate money to help two local stricken families, both of whom recently suffered cardiac emergencies with infants. Robyn and Kira said they would donate five percent each of their personal profits to children of Jess and Shannon Robinson and Jaci Wright and Paul Maddox.

Kira and Robyn both thanked the community for contributing to their campaign and education.

"I know everyone works hard for their money, and everyone has been very generous for helping us," Kira said. "I love living in Wrangell and I love volunteering in my community. I love helping animals and people."

Pink & White Nail Salon, Dave's Welding & Repair LLC, Buness Electric LLC, Totem Bar & Liquor Store, and Brett Woodbury Enterprises are sponsoring Kira and Robyn's run at the crown. Their ticket manager is Elaine Torvend, and while the group doesn't have a food manager or a food booth, they have received a lot of help from Dixie Booker, who described herself as the campaign's master poster maker.

Others were campaigning in order to brighten their futures, like Erica Smith, who recently graduated from Wrangell High School and is heading to Southern Oregon University in the fall. Smith's favorable impression of her community and sense of privilege was only deepened by a recent trip to New York and Washington DC.

She contrasted frequent vagrancy and homelessness she witnessed on her trip with the carefree children often seen on Wrangell sidewalks.

"It's the little things, really, but adventuring DC and New York City really made me appreciate home," she said. "People can tell you how lucky we are to live and work in a place like this, but I'm not sure it's really understood until you go off into the real world, even for just a minute. It's truly amazing to see how different the people are."

The community is supportive of its youth, Smith said.

"Between the community, the events and friendly indviduals, I can't think of a better place to have spent the past 18 years," she said. "Throughout my school years alone, I believe I have greatly benefitted from living in such a town. From athletic events to aiding my senior project, to various fundraisers, I have witnessed first hand just how supportive this community is."

Proceeds from her campaign would go toward defraying looming college costs, Smith said.

"I want to be as prepared as I can for college and my experience there," she said. "I want to beef up my funds before I head off in the fall. I hope you all realize how special this is."

The Alaskan Sourdough Lodge, Svendson's Marine, Breakaway Adventures, the Thomassen family, and the Stikine Inn are sponsoring Smith's campaign. Her ticket manager is Jessica Whitaker, and her food manager is mother, Rebecca Smith.

Brian O'Connor

Kira Torvend, left, and Robyn Booker, deliver a speech during the Fourth of July Queen kickoff event Saturday evening at the Stikine Inn. Kira and Robyn pledged to deliver 10 percent of their profits to help two local families suffering with injuries.

Candidates also emphasized the campaign was about having fun, like Cassie Schilling, who said she's taking a shot at the queen race for the smiles, a form of payback for her own toothy past.

"I was born and raised here in Wrangell, and my favorite holiday was Fourth of July," she said. "I remember being very excited when the Queen carts would go by, and I would just smile so big. I would pretend that I didn't care. I didn't want anyone to know that I was really excited. The only one who saw through my routine was always my dad."

Her main aim was to elicit some smiles of her own.

"If I can make one child smile on the Fourth of July like I used to smile when I saw those queen carts go round, all the hard work that goes into this would be worth it," she said.

Wrangell Truck & Auto, Alaska Special SEA Seafoods, Diamond C, Rayme's Bar, and the Bay Company are sponsoring Schilling's run. Her food manager is Kristen Stutz. Her ticket manager is Jenny Mork.


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