Juneau wins bid to keep Celebration

City's pledge of $10,000 swayed board to choose capital city for biennial event

Posted: Friday, March 11, 2005

Celebration is coming back to Juneau in 2006.

After reviewing offers from Ketchikan and Juneau, Sealaska Heritage Institute, the event's organizer, has decided to keep it in Juneau.

This was the first time the institute solicited bids outside of Juneau, and Ketchikan made a play for it. The capital has hosted the biennial Native cultural event since its inception in 1982.

Rosita Worl, president of the institute, said the board of trustees chose Juneau for the city's financial contribution.

"The other community had expressions of a lot of support but there were real firm commitments," Worl said.

Juneau pledged $10,000 cash and law enforcement to manage crowds. The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau pledged $5,000 toward the rental of Centennial Hall. The bureau and the Downtown Business Association also offered to solicit donations for the institute.

Ketchikan didn't commit a definite amount of contributions, although it promised to secure in-kind donations and financial support.

"The trustees were very pleased with the bid that came in from Juneau," Worl said. "It was truly an expression of support and also cooperation with Sealaska Heritage Institute."

Juneau Assembly member Johan Dybdahl said this is great news to Juneau.

"People realize there will be a big financial impact to the community if Sealaska Heritage Institute moves the event," Dybdahl said. "Celebration brings a lot of people. They spend a lot of money here."

The institute decided in December to solicit bids from Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, hoping one community would be willing to help offset the expenses of holding Celebration.

The institute spends about $250,000 hosting the event. About half of that amount is recovered through contributions and ticket and retail sales, the rest is underwritten by Sealaska, a regional Native corporation.

Sitka declined to bid on the project, saying that it is too big for the community. In 2004, Celebration attracted 5,000 people to Juneau.

Juneau raised its cash contribution from $5,000 to $10,000 and won the bid.

Sealaska Heritage Institute would also explore the possibilities of sponsoring small Celebrations in other communities in years when the main Celebration is not scheduled.

"We frequently get requests from shareholders living in Anchorage, Seattle and other Southeast communities to hold Celebration in their towns," Worl said. "The trustees hope to accommodate them on some level."

Celebration 2006 will be held from June 1-3. The institute hasn't decided whether to seek bids to host the 2008 Celebration.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.

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