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As good as gold

Juneau residents celebrate heritage at Gold Rush Days

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2007

The shout of "Gold" was heard in Juneau over the weekend as the 18th annual Gold Rush Days got underway at Dimond Park.

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"We found gold!" Michael Orelove yelled.

The retired state employee was showing a group of children ages 8 to 40 how to properly pan for gold Saturday in his small demonstration pond. "Shake the pan, tilt the pan, get the heavy stuff to the bottom." Of course, the heavy stuff is gold, "the color" as the old timers called it.

"Gold panning has not changed since they figured out how to do it," Orelove said.

Fascinated by the prospect of finding a flake in 2007, kids lined up to test their luck.

Caitlin Wilson, 11, found gold with her first pan of soil. What will she do with it? Like so many fortune seeking miners of the past, Wilson said, "I'll lose it like I did last year."

The festival featured longtime favorites such as funnel cakes, turkey legs, hand mucking, chainsaws and team jack drilling. The annual two-day event celebrated the two resources that helped Juneau residents build a town a century ago, gold and soft-wood timber.

Saturday was centered around mining, and Sunday hosted a series of logging events.

Morning rain did not hinder the mining competitions scheduled in the arena.

"Miners are a hard bunch of folks, a little rain won't throw them off," said Jesse Hay.

Saturday's hand mucking competition started off with Julio Gregorie. Following the time honored mantra of rhythm, stance, and stone, the "mucker" loaded approximately 1,500 pounds of gravel into a 300-pound cart then pushed the whole thing across the finish line in a time of 1:22:57, setting a tough time to beat.

Hay has worked with the Juneau Gold Rush Commission for 14 years, putting the competition together. He said the real crowds come on Sunday When the logging events happen.

"People relate better to logging," Hay said.

"Who doesn't want to see someone fall off the log in the rolling pond?" asked commission Treasurer Wendy Page.

• Greg Skinner can be reached at 523-2258or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.



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