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By Dan Rudy 

Solstice run and carnival celebrate smoke-freeness

 

Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Darian Meissner and Jen Gerald keep up the pace during Saturday's 5K. The pair together finished first among young walkers.

A local tradition now for four years running, the annual five-kilometer (3.1 mile) jog celebrating the summer solstice took on a new dimension.

Held on Saturday, the 2016 Smoke-Free Summer Solstice 5K encouraged participants to pursue a tobacco less lifestyle. Ordinarily organized by the running group the Southeast Beasts, this year's run was put on by the Partnership for Tobacco Free SouthEast, a regional coalition encompassing Petersburg, Juneau, Ketchikan and other communities in addition to Wrangell.

"We're just trying to change social norms," explained Tammi Meissner, a health educator for Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, which is a PTFSE coalition member.

"We don't have a local Wrangell workplace ordinance," Meissner pointed out. Currently

the Borough Municipal Code lacks any restrictions to use of tobacco products in public spaces, though

providing tobacco to a person under the age of 19 is an offense.

While city-owned

buildings, two bars and the Elks Lodge have voluntarily

decided to go smoke-free, parks and playgrounds are not, and there is no requirement for smokers to maintain any distance from doorways. PTFSE maintains having such measures in place would be of benefit to non-smokers, particularly those with respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema.

Thirty-seven participants joined in on the solstice run – which was not merely limited to running.

"We had bikers, we had walkers, we even had a dog participate," said Meissner. However people may have traveled, they traversed a course winding from the July 4 booths next to Wells Fargo out to City Park and back.

All comers received wooden medallions bearing the message "smoke fish, not tobacco." These were designed by student Kaylauna Churchill and manufactured by classmate J.D. Barratt using their school's laser cutter.

Prizes were distributed to event winners, such as SEARHC cutting boards and gift cards for coffee at the Stik Cafe. The 5K coincided with the Royalty Summer Solstice Carnival, which the Chamber of Commerce and SEARHC partnered up to make similarly smoke-free.

Dan Rudy/ Wrangell Sentinel

Thirty-seven runners participated in Saturday's Summer Solstice 5K, the fourth such event. Focusing on the upcoming Bearfest marathon next month, group Southeast Beasts handed off the event to Partnership for Tobacco-Free SouthEast, which gave the event a smokeless emphasis.

Featuring the foodstuffs of queen candidates Kyla Teat and Alex Angerman, the carnival included rides, a fish pond, games and face painting.

"We had a lot of people down," said Angerman.

"It was a really good turnout," Teat agreed.

Also a real crowd-pleaser was the evening's menu, appropriately summery fare such as barbecued chicken and John Taylor's famed ribs. Patrons returned the next afternoon for further feasting, with a crab feed held for Father's Day.

As with the tickets and booth sales throughout the month, proceeds from the event will be split between candidates and the Chamber, with the latter using it to fund activities and displays for the annual July 4 celebrations.

The time for purchasing queen tickets is quickly drawing to a close, with July 2 the last day for contributions. After the big raffle drawing on July 1 and a block party planned at the booths, by July 3 the tickets have to be tallied in time for the 2016 Royal Court Coronation at 8:30 p.m., following the annual talent show.

 

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