Rain, clouds don't deter solstice fair

Attendance at Saturday's summer solstice block party easily topped last year's inaugural edition by most accounts.

Most Fourth of July Queen food booths stayed open late. Dual candidates Robyn Booker and Kira Torvend had booths featuring ring-toss, cotton candy and pony rides. A Southeast Beasts 5K run billed as the Solstice Streak (though organizers discouraged participation without clothing) raised $8,000 for a local infant recovering from a heart transplant.

The run, which started at 8 pm, drew participants not only on foot but also on bike and, in the case of several members of the Garnet Grit Betties roller derby team, roller skates.

The solstice run was a chance to practice not only for general physical conditioning but also for planned on-skates participation in the Fourth of July Parade, said Shawna "BabyCakes" Buness. Weather may ultimately play the biggest role in whether or not the Betties show up for the parade.

"If it starts pouring down rain, I'm probably not going to ride in the rain with my skates," she said. "They're a little too expensive for that. But right now, we're good."

Three miles was easier to skate than run, Buness added.

For the Queen candidates, the solstice was an opportunity to hold extended hours amid the nearing conclusion of the campaign. Most candidates said they planned to stay open until at least 11 p.m., though some, like Cassie Schilling-Shilts, planned to go as late as 2 a.m.

"I feel like it's a big moneymaker," she said. "Live music, street dancing, the run, people going around with smiles on their faces. I feel like it's a pretty big deal for us to get in the middle of it and get some games going on for everyone."

Business at the three permanent stands was steady, said Erica Smith.

"It's not bad," she said. "I mean it's not insanely busy, which is nice, so we can take a second and breathe every now and again. We're getting consistent service."

Both Smith and fellow candidate Delila Wigg struggled to determine whether their business topped sales from the previous year.

"This is my first year, so I don't know," Wigg said. "Since I got down here it seems like ticket sales have increased tremendously."

"Overall today, it's been really good," she added.

The solstice, or longest day of the year – during which Wrangell receives almost 18 hours of daylight – is an abnormally big deal in parts north. That inspired Beasts coordinator Lucy Robinson to schedule the run, which in turn led to the idea of a block party.

"We coordinated with the Chamber, thinking we could get a little block-party style feel," she said. "It'll feel a little more block-partyish once the band starts playing, I think."

The previous year's run drew 21 participants to raise funds for the library's summer reading program. This year's cause – funded by registration fees and sponsors – is a little more personal, Robinson said.

"The proceeds this year are going to my nephew (Jaxson Robinson) who just had heart surgery," she said.

Participation for this year's streak was up, Robinson said.

"I think we're gonna have well over that this year," she said.

For some participants, like Ashleigh Reynolds and Andrea Laughlin, two participants who ran in tutus, the solstice was a chance to let their hair down.

Why tutus?

"Because it's the solstice and you gotta get crazy," Reynolds said.

Reynolds and Laughlin – who run together in the mornings – said the desire to support Jaxson drew them out in the windy and sometimes drizzly conditions. Laughlin regularly participates in the Beasts' running events, while Reynolds was running for the first time.

"Finishing," she said. "That's my best 5K time."


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