More than 1,000 dancers in regalia crowded Willoughby Avenue at 8:30 this morning, ready for the procession to Centennial Hall to open Celebration 2002. Hugs and handshakes gave the gathering the mood of a family reunion.
Robert Davis from Sitka stood outside ANB Hall and eyed the crowd with a smile.
"I'm seeing friends from all over Southeast - and from out of state," he said. "Apaches, Blackfeet, and people are still coming in. There's going to be a lot of people. Three days is just not enough."
Celebration festivities take place today through Saturday at Centennial Hall and ANB Hall. Dance groups from throughout Southeast Alaska will perform, as well as guests from Hawaii, Canada, Anchorage, Kodiak and Washington state.
About 30 Hawaiian students from Kamehameha boarding school on Oahu waited patiently in the street for the procession to begin. Some held ipus, giant gourds dried and hollowed and fashioned into percussion instruments.
They'll be singing and performing ancient and modern hula dances, including traditional dances that honor special places in Hawaii and pay tribute to the fire goddess, Pele. They'll also perform contemporary hulas accompanied by ukulele, guitar and bass.
Students come from throughout the Hawaiian Islands to attend the boarding school.
"Half of us just graduated," said Kamanu Maunupau, 17. "Half of us are juniors and seniors."
With a drumbeat and a cry, The 4th Generation Tsimshian Dancers from Metlakatla started the procession a few minutes before 9 a.m. and the crowd streamed toward Centennial Hall for the welcome ceremony.
Celebration is a biennial gathering of Tlingit, Tsimshian and Haida people and their guests. The first event, in 1982, drew 12 dance groups and 150 people. This year the event will feature 42 dance groups and more than 1,600 dancers.
The big Celebration parade will begin about 8:30 Saturday morning near the Mount Roberts Tramway and move up South Franklin Street to Centennial Hall.
A Native arts and crafts market is being held at the National Guard Armory. This year's event also includes a black seaweed contest, stick games, storytelling, poetry, canoe races Sunday afternoon at Sandy Beach, and an art show at the Alaska State Museum.
The event is organized by Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Three-day passes, which cost $12 for students and elders and $25 for adults, are on sale at Centennial Hall. One-day tickets, available Thursday, are $5 for students and elders, and $10 for adults. Children under 8 are admitted free.
Riley Woodford can be reached at email@example.com.