The Fourth in Juneau

Parade's freedom theme elicits a lot of opinions

Posted: Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Retired state employee Steve White was one of the people responsible for the 2004 Juneau Fourth of July parade flap, when a masked man lampooning George W. Bush sparked a flurry of complaints.

With "Freedom of Speech" as this year's theme, White was back on Monday. He and a group calling themselves "The Pissed-Off Patriots" marched with a banner that read "We're Off To See The Wizard," while masked caricatures of Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice pranced through the streets looking for "brains, courage, heart and integrity."

"A lot of people wanted an encore, so we decided to give it to them," White said. "We just wanted to make a comment that we were very unhappy with the people that run this country and that they lack a lot of things that are on this sign right here, in particular integrity and courage."

About a dozen of the 78 floats in Monday's three-mile parade were inspired by this year's theme to make some sort of political proclamation. Thousands packed the downtown route - south on Egan Drive, through South Franklin, Front and Main streets, and back up Egan - to see it.

Roughly two dozens floats continued to the Douglas Parade, where afternoon sun and soaring temperatures brought throngs to Third Street and Sandy Beach.

"It was a lot of fun; it was probably one of the most satisfying things that has happened to me," said University of Alaska Southeast chancellor John Pugh, the grand marshal of the Juneau parade.

"I think you saw that people came out and felt like if the theme was freedom of speech, they really wanted to get their views known," he said. "I think that was a real improvement here in terms of the parade, and I think that parade was a good cross-representation of Juneau."

Like last year, the "Patriots" were greeted by detractors.

"Some people were a little upset, but that's what it's all about," White said. "The idea is to stir up thought and controversy and to get people thinking about who's running the country and what their values are.

"I was really pleased that this issue was raised last year in the context of the Fourth of July parade," he said. "A lot of people don't understand that this is free expression. That's what America is about, being able to express your opinions freely. I was glad that the letters (to the editor) that came in were both in support of it and against it. It was a good civic exercise for Juneau to go through."

For some, White's float was not the most controversial. Paul Hamby turned a few heads in the crowd with a float for his seven-year-old business, Clearcut Tree Service. A large banner urged the crowd to reject recycled toilet paper and buy "the new stuff." A series of stickers proclaimed "Logging is Good." The back of the car carried a sign demanding "Clearcut Now."

"In the days of the logging controversies there was a lot of polarization, and the logging side was a little underrepresented," Hamby said. "This is kind of a parody. Everyone understands that we need our parks and our message is, the whole world can't be a park. We use wood. It's an agricultural commodity like corn, and it's a necessity. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of logging in our national forests."

Hamby said the crowd reaction was positive, except for a few high-school kids.

"It's really not their fault, because their minds have been poisoned in school by environmental stuff," Hamby said. "I'm sure that as they grow and are able to learn for themselves, they'll maybe get a more complete perspective and understand that logging does good for everyone."

As for condemning recycled toilet paper?

"We want to raise awareness out there that many people may be using recycled toilet paper and maybe not understanding what that really means," Hamby said. "It means that toilet paper could have been used once before. We want people to have new stuff. New wood, so new trees are cut."

The Juneau People for Peace and Justice were back at the Juneau parade with their peace cranes -large paper birds supported by poles. Group member Judith Maier bought 110 more poles this year, allowing the group to hoist more than 200 cranes. Some of the group members split off this year and marched as "Veterans for Peace" and "Code Pink." The People for Peace and Justice later hosted an open mike at Sandy Beach where anyone was able to talk for three minutes on a topic of their choice.

"People ask us to come back with the peace cranes," Maier said. "They say, 'We won't be at the parade unless you're here.' So here we are."

"This is the thing that gives me a sense of hope - that we can come together and come out of diversity and decide that we're going to hunt for truth," she said.

Ed Carrillo and a colorful group of dancers dressed like eagles to celebrate the Filipino tradition of Ati-Atihan. The holiday, sometimes called the "Filipino Mardi Gras," is held on the third week of January in the town of Kalibo to celebrate the Santo Niño. The decoratively feathered bird costumes were hand-made in the Philippines.

"It's pretty light and it's cool," Carrillo said, sweating after the sun came out during the three-mile march. "It's a lot of work and too much expense, but people enjoy the culture that we have."

Part-time artists and sculptors Dan Elstad and Garrith McLean baffled the Juneau crowd with a bicycle-towed assemblage of spruce poles and steel cable called "Tensegrity" - short for "Tension and Integrity." They've worked in stone, sculpture and kinetic art for years and enter the parade every other year. They've marched with an electric-powered snowman and a drivable couch. They put "Tensegrity" together over the course of two days. None of the poles touched, but the physical force of the items pulling apart from each other allowed the structure to remain intact.

"Everybody asked what it was for, and all we could say was, 'It's art for art's sake,'" McLean said.

Fred and Jirdes Baxter, of Douglas, served as the grand marshals of the Douglas Parade and also rode in the Juneau festivities. Jirdes is the last-known survivor of the 1925 Nome diphtheria epidemic. She moved here in 1929, and except for a few years, has lived in town for most of her life.

"It was quite an honor," she said, after the Douglas parade. "It was just a lot of fun. I saw a lot of people, and I saw a lot of old-timers standing around. It was wonderful."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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