Flags fly high

Rain doesn't dismay Juneau patriots

Posted: Friday, July 05, 2002

Despite the rain, people flocked to Fourth of July events in Juneau and Douglas to celebrate independence in a year that folks said has brought a greater appreciation for freedom. "It's a great year for freedom," said former Juneau resident Joseph Stubbins, who traveled from Anchorage to be with friends for the holiday. "There seems to be a greater display of patriotism this year."

The American flag adorned buildings, vehicles, people and pets on the Fourth. Fireworks kicked off the celebration, starting just after midnight as scheduled, despite a persistent drizzle. Cars lined Egan Drive and pedestrians braved the weather in what turned out to be a disappointing display for many.

Low clouds and smoke created by the fireworks masked the bursts of color for spectators on the Juneau side of Gastineau Channel, and left them a show of diffused lights and loud reports.

"I think it was a sad display," said Andrew Mattala. "Too much smoke and not enough fireworks. You couldn't see them, they were obscured by smoke. No offense to the people putting it on. It's not their fault, it's weather-induced."

"The explosive and carnival atmosphere was the real show of the festivities, regardless of the Southeast weather," said Stubbins. "It was well worth the trip from Anchorage."

In the morning, thousands of people lined the parade route in downtown Juneau, most bundled up in rain gear.

Two police cars led the procession, followed by wailing fire trucks with riders throwing candy to children. This year's theme was "United We Stand," which paid homage to the heroes and victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It feels like we're more together as a community," said Janice Jackson. "I think this is the best parade yet. There seems to be a real joy for living."

The grand marshals for this year's parade were four Juneau residents who traveled to New York City as a crisis counseling team to assist at the World Trade Center site in October. Psychologist Destiny Sargeant and police officers Jerry Nankervis, Kim Martin and Paul Comolli rode in style in a burgundy-colored Humvee.

The serious beginning was followed by some humorous and entertaining groups and floats. The Juneau Icefield Research Program rendered the Village People's song "YMCA" while dressed in climbing gear; and the Girls Without Gas, who took first place for marching, dressed in bathrobes and hair curlers and pushed hand-powered lawn mowers.

Magic 100.7 and Gastineau Human Services teamed up for this year's parade, taking home first place awards for Best Use of Theme, Most Patriotic and Best of Parade.

"The Fourth is always a great time here, and even in the rain everyone has fun," said GHS Executive Director Greg Pease.

The float was sponsored by the SoBe nonalcoholic beverage, and sent out more than just a message of patriotism. "We always try to keep the theme safe and sober Fourth,' " Pease said.

Robert Butler, who helped to design and build the float, said workers spent about 80 hours in two and a half weeks, with help from some residents at the halfway house run by GHS.

"This year everyone was trying to be patriotic," Butler said. "I think everyone worked harder to have a patriotic theme. It really means a lot to people."

During the afternoon, various events took place throughout Douglas following the island community's own parade. The Society of Creative Anachronism entertained with a medieval combat demonstration, and kids partook in three-legged races and sack races for cash prizes. A dog Frisbee contest entertained many, with one dog wowing the crowd by executing backflips prior to the event.

Professional sand sculptor Kirk Rademaker of Oakland, Calif., whose Web site is sandguy.com, gave workshops for the Annual Sand Castle Expo. He quit his day job about a year ago to concentrate on fantasy sculptures, such as the one he built on Sandy Beach.

Rademaker said he found Juneau to be very patriotic and was particularly moved as he watched the USS John Young, a Navy destroyer, cruise up the channel.

"I was immediately awestruck by this place," said Rademaker. "I'm having a great Fourth. It's a totally new experience."

Juneau resident Shodie Akin was enjoying the festivities at Savikko Park.

"There's a lot more people than I thought there was going to be because the weather isn't that good," she said.

The sun did make a brief appearance as it peeked through a patch of blue sky onto Sandy Beach at about 4 p.m. The weather couldn't dampen the fun on this Independence Day.

"Flags are flying and everyone is in a good mood," said Akin.

Winners of the Juneau Fourth of July Parade floats

Best of parade

Gastineau Human Services

Most Alaskan

1st place: U.S. Forest Service

2nd place: Tim Grussendorf for House

Most Patriotic

1st place: Gastineau Human Services

2nd place: Juneau First Branch Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Best Commercial

1st place: Arrow Refuse

2nd place: Alaska Airlines

Best Use of Theme

1st place: Gastineau Human Services

2nd place: Juneau First Branch Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Best of Animals

1st place: Amanda Sidney

2nd place: Capitol City Corgi Corps

Best Customized Vehicle

1st place: The Boatmobile

2nd place: Alaska National Guard

Best Marching

1st place: Girls Without Gas Drill Team

2nd place: Juneau Icefield Research Program

Best Classic Vehicle

1st place: 1940 Chevrolet "Buttercup"

2nd place: Alaskan Dames/Airport Shopping Center

Best Youth Entry

Winner: Archie Lee and grandchild

Winners of the DouglasFourth of July Parade floats

Best Musical

Stroller White

Most Patriotic

Alaska Realty Network

Most Beautiful

Mountainview Seniors

Best Commercial

Alaska Airlines

Best Marching Band

Juneau Volunteer Marching Band

Most Original

Bear Body Works

Best Traveling Garden

Orca and SAIL

Most Alaskan

U.S. Forest Service

Eric Morrison can be reached at nrclerk@juneauempire.com.

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