Fourth festival comes to Wrangell


The Fourth of July started with a pie-eating contest and ended not with a bang but with the stamp of feet on pavement at Volunteer Park.

The five-day event began July 1 with the Welcome Home Picnic and concluded on the day after Independence Day with big-wheel and wheelbarrow races. Unlike perhaps any other event in Wrangell, it can rightly be said that if you weren’t at some Fourth of July event, whether the parade down Front Street, the log rolling competition, or the Chuck Oliver Logging Show, you probably weren’t in Wrangell at all.

Pinning down the most successful events can be somewhat slippery, like the greased pole climb Thursday afternoon. That event requires strategy, said Ryan Rooney. Rooney, a small youngster, drew applause and cheers of encouragement from the crowd when his third attempt at the competition’s $100-prize placed him within mere feet of the top of the pole. Rooney made it further than older and stronger candidates in part because of a strategy pioneered by his brother. Rather than a straight shimmy, Rooney would use his long-sleeved shirt to remove some of the vegetable spread on the pole, then inch forward.

“I tried to kind of do what my brother did a couple years ago,” he said.

Other events pitted junior engineers against each other, like the Crazy Craft event held Wednesday afternoon. Cousins Jake Eastaugh and Kadin Mill’s float had the most eye-catching design. It had two plastic barrels at its core and was completed with outriggers and red-white-and-blue decorations. The pair had themed nicknames and wore aviator sunglasses.

“Top Gun is my favorite movie ever,” said Mill who rode in the front cutaway cockpit, which was painted with the word “Maverick.”

Eastaugh took the back of the cockpit and the nickname “Goose” in part because he was a little bit taller, like the actor Anthony Edwards who played the character in the 1986 movie.

Eastaugh and Mill finished in third-place and received an excellent bonus. Unlike other participants who were capsized or pelted with water balloons, the pair was relatively dry at the event’s finish.

Other events, like the Chuck Oliver Logging Show held Friday, were a bit more pointed. The show pitted men of timber against one another and several large trees. John Rentschler took the all-around logger award.

And some events, like the Art Clarke Scrap Fish Derby for young fishermen, were downright fishy.

“I got a fish!” Alivia Young, 7, yelled moments before pulling a bullhead out of the water. She and her brother quickly put the fish in a net.

Other events, like the perennial egg toss on Front Street, were a bit – okay, a lot – of a yolk. The event’s trigger phrase, “Toss your egg now!” was referenced not only at the Thursday evening talent show by master of ceremonies Aleisha Mollen but also by Stephen Prysunka who announced the logging show.

“Toss your axe now,” he quipped during the axe throwing portion of the event.


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