City shines with spirit of the Fourth

Posted: Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Juneau Volunteer Marching Band drum major Bea Findlay leads the band in the Douglas Fourth of July Parade.

This year's Fourth of July parade showed the diversity in how Juneau residents view the true spirit of Independence Day.

The grand marshals were two veterans - Douglas Wahto, who fought in World War II, and Jeremy Lemke, who served in Kosovo and Iraq.

People for Peace and Justice wore pink clothes with signs saying "May our sons and daughters never go to war." The group was followed by a camouflaged pickup carrying riders in green military uniforms and a sign saying "We Salute Freedom's Combat Heroes."

In front of Veterans for Peace, a John Kerry supporter wore a George W. Bush mask. His sign read, "I think I serve. Commit troops. Cut benefits." Some spectators booed the man as he waved the sign.

"The man with the mask had nothing to do with our group, but he certainly had stirred up some energy," said John Dunker, a Vietnam War veteran.

War and peace were not the only political themes in the parade. At least six candidates - such as former ferry system manager Bob Doll and Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, R-Juneau - took advantage to promote their campaigns.

The children loved the candidates because of the candies they threw to the sidewalks. But some adult spectators weren't pleased.

"When I was a little boy, the parades were less politics but more hometown feelings," said Tony Barril, 59. He was born and raised in Juneau. In this year's parade, "it seems that every politician is out there trying to push for elections."

Although the parade was highly charged with political messages, the Ati-Atihan dancers and the Stroller White Pipes and Drums gave the procession a festive touch. The Filipino dancers were clad in yellow avian costumes while the Scottish pipe and drum band wore olive-green kilts.

"I like the Filipino dancers," said John Carlile, 42. "They always have bright colorful costumes. They are full of energy."

Many of the Juneau parade participants joined the Douglas parade in the afternoon.

A float dedicated to Nikki Richert, who was born on July 4, won the most original float category. Her friends decorated the float in the shape of a huge birthday cake as a surprise gift for her.

"When I was little, my dad told me that the fireworks were for me," said Richert, who wore a T-shirt with the words "B Day Queen."

When the parade was over, people flocked to Savikko Park and Sandy Beach for various activities, ranging from the soapbox derby to a sandcastle contest.

Tobie Putman comes from Fairbanks to Juneau every year for the Fourth of July celebration.

"In Juneau, Fourth of July is bigger than Christmas," she said. "I am always amazed how much people get into it. It's a great day to celebrate with friends and families."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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