Rain doesn't dampen 4th

Unusually wet Fourth doesn't stop the fireworks, the antique car caravan or the mobile sofa

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2001

Rain was falling as participants in Juneau's Fourth of July parade gathered in the parking lot outside the state Department of Labor building on Wednesday morning. Ozzie Sheakley, commander of the Southeast Alaska Native Veterans, handed a carafe of hot coffee to his brother Roger, who was sitting in the front seat of the group's decorated flatbed truck.

"I went home to dry up," Ozzie said, holding several umbrellas in his other hand. "I bought the best coffee in town to keep them here."

"So far we haven't melted," Roger added.

More than 100 floats, vehicles, marching groups and others took part in the Juneau parade under the theme "Let Freedom Ring." Former Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan and School Board member Daniel Peterson served as grand marshals.

Co-director Gerald Dorsher said no cancellations came in because of the weather. Judges wrapped clipboards in plastic bags as they reviewed the parade entries.

Florence Mynarski of Pioneers Auxiliary 6 was sitting beneath a red umbrella in a golf cart, waiting for the parade to start. In the past 46 years, she could remember four times when it has rained in Juneau on the Fourth of July. In the 1960s, showers turned the crepe paper on her sorority's float into a soggy mess, she said.


"It wasn't 1959. It was a nice year for the statehood parade. It was a beautiful day," she said.

Don Burford of Pioneers Igloo 6 said Juneau has had a fortunate run of good July Fourth weather in the past few years.

"This is Juneau. If it rains, it rains," he said.

The National Weather Service measured half an inch of precipitation at the Juneau Airport on Wednesday. Records show about a quarter inch of rain fell on July 4, 1993.

Data at the airport can differ from totals in downtown Juneau, said lead forecaster Bob Mosley.

In the past 57 years, there has been measurable precipitation on 26 Independence Days in Juneau. The most - 0.89 inch - fell in 1964.

"The short-timers who came here in the 1990s had it good until (Wednesday)," Mosley said. "People who lived here in the '50s and '60s will remember differently."

Hundreds of people who lined the waterfront in Juneau and Douglas on Tuesday night had good weather for a half-hour fireworks display. The ground-breaking ceremony for a new ice rink in Douglas on Tuesday evening took place under partly cloudy skies.

Wednesday's precipitation didn't stop a contingent of five Model T Fords that traveled from Texas for Juneau's Independence Day celebrations. Ben Hardeman of Bryan, Texas, was making the 12,000-mile round-trip journey in a 1927 Fordor Sedan with his family.

Hardeman also traveled with a group of 16 Model Ts that came to Juneau in 1987. He decided to repeat the trip so his youngest daughter could come, he said.

The five cars and 12 people should finish the trip Aug. 15.

"We had engines out on four occasions on three different cars. We had the differential out four times on three different cars. Plus, there were other minor breakdowns," he said.

A 1926 right-hand drive Model T Roadster that made the trip to Juneau from England was not among the cars with mechanical problems. Ross Lilleker of Derbyshire, England, found out about the trip over the Internet and shipped the car across the Atlantic Ocean to Galveston, Texas.

On the other side of the parking lot, Velja and Dan Elstad were checking over parade entry 59, a self-propelled couch with the name "Snooze-N-Cruze."


Dan added a battery, motor and wheels to the brown love seat, which turned on a dime as it made its way down the parade route.

The couch won't be going back into the Elstad house after Wednesday's festivities.

"I hate that love seat," Velja Elstad said, laughing.

The Elstads' daughters, Annie, 13, and Kirsten, 10, along with friend Veronica, 10, dressed in pajamas and bathrobes to throw candy from the couch-on-wheels. A sign attached to the love seat read "The couch potatoes wish you a happy 4th of July."

The rain cleared by the time the parade in Juneau started, but returned for the Douglas parade, with former Woodsy's auto repair owners Alan and Linda Wood as grand marshals.

Darin and Terri Fagerstrom and their children Kyle, 6, and Brita, 4, were ready for the weather in Douglas, camping beneath the back of their car and setting up chairs, tarps, blankets and umbrellas.

"What weather?" asked Darin Fagerstrom.

There were fewer entries in the Douglas parade and its kids' contingent this year than previous years, said Molly McCormick, a Douglas Fourth of July Committee member directing traffic at the start of the procession.

"It's always nice on the Fourth. I can't remember the last time it rained," she said.

Kai Christian, 11, incorporated blue rubber boots into her parade costume: an Xtra-tuf gypsy cat. Her friend, Julia Goggin, 6, was a purple butterfly, attaching wings to a yellow raincoat.

The afternoon's field races and dog agility trials at Savikko Park in Douglas went on as planned. And the rain gave more room to the medieval combat demonstrations after horse trials were canceled, said Marlin Lowe of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

"(The rain) has definitely affected our audience. We won't have quite the turn-out. But there's lots of parking," he said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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