Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Fourth festivities to last through four-day weekend


A finalized event schedule has been put out for the 2016 Fourth of July Celebration in Wrangell, which begins tomorrow and will last through Monday evening.

This year’s celebratory theme is “Back to the Rock,” highlighting the annual Fourth holiday as a time when Wrangellite relatives, former residents and family friends return to the island.

“It’s just kind of that catch phrase people in Wrangell use for coming back home,” explained Aleisha Mollen, Chamber of Commerce treasurer and chair of this year’s festivities.

Though she has organized the talent show for the past two years and has been involved with other events, this is the first time Mollen has chaired the celebration in its entirety.

“It’s been really great, transitioning,” she said. Her job has primarily been to coordinate individual events and making sure ample supplies and funds are on hand to make the Fourth go smoothly.

“All these people bring all their experience to it, and they pretty much have it down.”

“There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes,” Mollen explained. “What you see, versus what goes into it.”

Businesses have put up decorations, flags and tricolor bunting along Front Street and around town in preparation for the parade and associated festivities.

The two competitors for the 2016 Royal Court will be wrapping up their food booth activities tomorrow, and will be selling tickets through Saturday. Afterward, either Kyla Teat or Alex Angerman will be chosen as the celebration’s queen outside Evergreen Elementary School at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“They’ve done a fantastic job this year,” Mollen commented. She reckoned the two had raised at least $60,000 from the booths themselves, with more funds coming from a variety of auctions and other events. A share of the funds go toward the queen candidates as a scholarship, while the majority goes toward next year’s celebration.

“Without the queens we could not have Fourth of July,” Mollen continued. “We’re very grateful to them and their teams. It’s a lot of work.”

For those holding royalty tickets, the prize drawing will commence on Monday following the parade, outside the Nolan Center. The first pulled wins $5,000; second $3,000; third and fourth a $1,000 cash prize.

The Independence Day parade itself will be held Monday at 11 a.m. on Front Street, led by a procession of motorcyclists and featuring citizen of the year Laura Davies and the royalty competition winner. Wrangell’s Fourth of July Community Band will provide music, a color guard will bear the Stars and Stripes, and a diverse range of marchers, costumed participants, floats and horses will make their way down Front Street.

Chaired this year by Grover Mathis, Kelly Gunderson and Augie Schultz, floats are to gather on Campbell Drive at 9:30 a.m., with judging to commence at 10. Floats arriving after that time can still participate in the parade, but will be ineligible for prizes. Prize categories will be for businesses/organizations, individuals and churches, with awards of $250, $150 and $100 for the top three placers.

“There’s still a chance to enter the parade,” Mollen said.

After the parade, a number of events will go on through the day in and around the commercial district. The Elks beer garden opens at noon and begins serving steaks at 4 p.m., pony rides and the Beta Sigma Phi pie sale will be held in addition to a variety of local food booths. Toddler games will be held on the City Hall lawn from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30, followed by a chipping and putting trick shot competition at 2 p.m. Street games on Front Street will begin at 1:30 p.m., concluding with the annual egg toss at 4 p.m.

The Chuck Oliver Logging Show begins at the city dock roundabout at 1 p.m. Participants can begin signing up at noon, and must sign a waiver of responsibility beforehand. Events will include power bucking, axe chopping, the hand buck, single jack, rolling pin toss, axe throw, and others. An “All Around Logger” plaque will go to the contestant earning the most points, while the “Bull of the Woods” will go to the person deemed the best sportsman of the show.

At 5 p.m. the Sonny Wigg Log Rolling Competition will be held down at the seasonal floats. Learning from last year’s event after a setting sun gave contestants the shivers, this year’s event will be a single-elimination contest.

Live music at the city dock will begin at 9:30 p.m., featuring the Haggard Willies. The visiting band will also be at Rayme’s Bar Saturday and Sunday evenings.

The festival’s crowning achievement will be its fireworks display, held over Zimovia Strait at dusk. The colorful bombardment will be conducted by the Wrangell Volunteer Fire Department, which will also be sure to keep it safe as well as spectacular.

Because Independence Day falls on a Monday, Mollen expects the festivities to have a great turnout this year as people are able to enjoy the activities held over the long weekend. It officially kicks off tomorrow evening with the Welcome Home Picnic at Shoemaker Bay Park at 6:30 p.m.

Popular summertime events like the Art Clark and Tiny Tots scrap fish derbies start Saturday morning at the city dock, with the “Crazy Craft” race held there at 1 p.m. The next day, the challenging greased pole climb will be held at city dock at noon, with canoe racing to follow there at 2 p.m.

Three new events have joined the schedule this year. All three have been set for Saturday afternoon. At 3 p.m. an obstacle course is being put together at the running track near Volunteer Park by Wrangell Medical Center’s long-term care program. With a $10 admission, proceeds from the muddy slog will go to benefit the program.

Nearby at 4 p.m., “beach volleyball” will be held at the volleyball court near the baseball fields. Mollen said she hoped to have that event located closer to Front Street next year, nearer to the festivities. Also at 4 p.m. at the swimming pool, Bruce McQueen of the Wrangell Swim Club has organized a swim meet.

All three events were recommended to the Chamber’s festival committee for inclusion on the calendar, and Mollen hoped more would be similarly brought forward in future.

“It’s exciting that people are getting involved to where they’re coming to us with events,” she said.

One event from past years did not make it onto the schedule, the soapbox derby. Mollen explained a chairperson would not be available this summer to organize the event, which requires considerable safety inspections on vehicles and precautionary measures taken at the race site.

“It’s a pretty involved event,” said Mollen.

The full schedule is in this week’s issue of the Sentinel.


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