Ketchikan has joined Juneau in bidding to host the 2006 Celebration, an event that highlights Southeast Alaska Native culture.
Patti Mackey, executive director of Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, submitted a bid on behalf of the city of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
"We have a very large Native population in Ketchikan and surrounding areas," Mackey said. "Having Celebration in Ketchikan will open doors to a lot of people who haven't participated in Celebration in the past."
Kathy Dye, spokeswoman for Sealaska Heritage Institute, said the institute will select one bidder in early March to host the next biennial Celebration. The event drew 5,000 people from Alaska, New Zealand, Canada and Lower 48 to Juneau last year.
Juneau has hosted Celebration since the event's first occurrence in 1982. For the first time, the institute is inviting other cities to bid on the event in the hope that one city would offer more financial assistance to the institute than Juneau has.
"It costs about $250,000 to host the event," Dye said. "We get about half back from various contributions and ticket sales. The other half is underwritten by Sealaska."
Dye said the institute has sent letters of invitation to Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
Sitka declined the invitation, saying the event is too large for the community. Juneau pledged to give $10,000 in a cash contribution and pay for law enforcement overtime to manage crowds. Ketchikan didn't commit any cash donation but listed ways to raise money to ease the institute's financial burdens.
Despite limited hotel space in Ketchikan, Mackey said the area would arrange housing in homes and churches for Celebration visitors. The city has about 450 hotel rooms. The bureau would work with local Native corporations and chambers of commerce to raise funds.
Dye said Sealaska considered asking Anchorage to bid, but decided not to this year.
"We are concerned about the extra travel costs to get to Anchorage and possible higher lodging costs for our participants," Dye said. "But we are not ruling out Anchorage after 2006. They expressed a strong desire to bid on the event. They might be able to come up with ways to ease the financial burden to travel there."
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.