Celebration planned for Legislature's centennial

Parade, mock session, restaurant makeover possible
Pamela Varni, Executive Director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, reviews materials for the Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission during their meeting at the Capitol on Friday. Members shown are Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, left, Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, Sen. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, and former Sen. Rick Halford.

Juneau will have some special events going on next month to mark the Alaska Legislature’s 100th anniversary.


The Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission met Friday to discuss plans for the centennial, for which a roster of all members to have served in the Territorial Legislature and State Legislature, as well as an accompanying website, is being prepared.

Members of the commission also discussed local events that could be held during the first week of March.

Rockwell co-owner Deb Barry said she had already been making plans for the centennial, such as converting the restaurant and bar she and Erik Emert purchased last year ­— the former Elks Lodge on Franklin Street, where the Senate first convened on March 3, 1913 — into a 1920s-style diner, perhaps with a speakeasy.

The Territorial Legislature met in that building — on a third floor that no longer exists.

“I actually wanted to have my own event, because I thought that was really awesome that the 100-year anniversary was 10 months after we bought the building,” Barry said. “I have a bunch of ideas, but then I realized that lots of other people are interested in that day as well. So now I’m just kind of open to anything, but I’d really love for something to happen in the building because I think it’s awesome.”

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, chairman of the commission, said to Barry, “We wouldn’t want to interfere with any plans you have, but if we were together, that would be just tremendous.”

A legislative aide to Stevens, Tim Lamkin, who has been involved in the centennial event planning process, told the commission he had gone ahead and reserved Rockwell for the week.

“We have it booked for the whole week to do whatever we want with it, pretty much,” said Lamkin. He added, “It’s my expectation that we would want to begin on Sunday the 3rd and then have a daily or a nightly event of some nature at that venue.”

Among the possible events that were discussed Friday were a mock session of the Senate with actors in period dress, a laser light show with smoke and sound effects, a panel of historians to talk about Alaska history, and even a parade, which was suggested by Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau.

“I like the idea of a mock session the first night, and then subsequent gatherings after that, but I think there’s an opportunity there with the wonderful parade route right in the downtown,” said Muñoz. She suggested that historic fire trucks and old cars could be involved in the parade.

Stevens said the City and Borough of Juneau should be involved in any event planning for a parade.

“Is this something we can actually work with you on and transfer a lot of responsibility to you?” Stevens asked former Rep. Clark Gruening, D-Anchorage, Juneau’s lobbyist, and Jensen Yorba Lott President Wayne Jensen, who said they would pass the ideas along.

The commission also encouraged Lamkin to continue working on plans for a mock Senate session at Rockwell.

The centennial will also be commemorated with posters, pins and other promotional material.

One feature members of the commission asked Legislative Affairs staff to incorporate as they put together the member roster and website for the centennial is an archive of legislative district maps.

Every decade, by law, the state is required to redraw its legislative districts, and members noted that often leads to changes in who represents which communities.

“I think that’s significant for people to see how the districts change because of reapportionment,” said Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel. “One community might be in one district and later on be switched, and people that are out there might be interested in seeing that change.”

Public member Terrence Cole, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, liked that idea. He said such a collection could serve an educational function.

“This is a great teaching thing that we could use in K-12,” Cole said.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.


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