Although residents may not need a specified day to appreciate Alaska's capital city, Juneau Appreciation Day has become a growing tradition in the downtown area.
According to Jim Duncan, Mount Roberts Tramway director of operations, the celebration started in 1999 by then-director of operations George Reifenstein, as Tram Appreciation Day, mainly to inform the public about the fairly new tram, which began operation in 1996.
Admission at the first Tram Appreciation Day was free, and approximately 4,600 people showed up, according to Duncan.
"It just evolved from then," he said.
In 2000, the tram staff decided to donate ticket sales to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and in 2001 the name officially changed from Tram Appreciation Day to its current name.
"There started to be other businesses following suit," Duncan said of the reason for the name change. "We try to work with the Alaska Travel Industry Association and other businesses and organizations, and we wanted to say it's not only us doing this."
In 2002, the tram donated proceeds to the Boy Scouts, but after the 2004 construction of the Juneau Raptor Center's aviary at the top of the tram, officials dedicated the annual fundraiser to the local nonprofit that has rehabilitated birds and wildlife since 1987.
Juneau Appreciation Day is now held on a weekend in early May when there are few ships in, so there isn't competition between tourists and locals, Duncan said.
"It's a way of thanking the local community for their support," he said. "It gives them a good opportunity to ride the tram at a discounted rate."
To be held Saturday, the day features perks for locals at some downtown businesses. For example, Macaulay Salmon Hatchery (DIPAC) will be open free to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering food, drinks and family activities. Rie Muñoz Gallery will give away a free Muñoz poster to all who visit, and Alaska Canopy Adventures is offering zipline rides to locals for $75, more than $100 less than the original price.
At the tram, ride tickets are $6, and the restaurant will be open with a limited menu to include hot dogs and hamburgers. The raptor center also will show education birds, usually birds that have been injured which volunteers use to inform the community.
According to Capito, the center owns and operates the tram eagle display only during the summer months, employing a naturalist to instruct tourists and visitors on local birds as well as specific injuries to the eagle.
"The naturalists also solicit donations from visitors to the eagle enclosure so we can continue to offer this experience to visitors," Capito said. "Oftentimes, visitors ask other questions about the area or what animals they may see on the trails so the naturalists try to answer their questions as well."
According to Capito, the center, an all-volunteer organization, gets much of its funding from donations and memberships.
"Most of the money is used for the care and feeding of the birds we get in during the year, some years more than 200 birds," she said.
On that note, the center released two birds on Thursday, and its last two birds will be released at 7 p.m. Monday and Thursday at the Brotherhood Bridge parking lot. The center is in the process of raising money to build another center, Capito said.
On Saturday, the tram may close an hour earlier if the weather is poor, Duncan said.
"We just hope for a nice sunny day and lots of people to come visit the tram to support the raptor center," Duncan said.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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