'08 Celebration days announced

Sealaska received no bids to move cultural festival

Posted: Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Juneau residents and business owners, prepare to mark your 2008 calendars - the Sealaska Heritage Institute has set the dates for its biennial bash, Celebration, for June 5-7.

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The three-day cultural event will take place in Juneau, as it has since it was first kicked off in 1982, Institute President Rosita Worl said. The board of trustees officially set the dates in a meeting last week.

The board also determined the 2008 theme, which will focus on land, she said. During upcoming meetings, the board plans to hammer out the specifics.

"The trustees talked about the spiritual aspect of our land. We are going to work on different wordings (of the theme)," she said. The institute also plans to release a book identifying Native place names in the region, as well as a book featuring photos of Celebration dancers. Some new activities are expected in 2008, including some highlighting Native foods and contests for the best red ribbon seaweed and the best soapberries.

"We want to add other contests so our young people learn more about other traditional foods," Worl said.

The event draws more than 2,000 dancers, 40 dance groups and workshops on language and cultural issues. There also is a juried art show the day before the festival begins. The Yakutat Mount St. Elias Dancers have been chosen to lead Celebration - an honor bestowed upon one group each festival.

Celebration is an important event not only for the preservation of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures, but is a major economic boon for Juneau's businesses. Lorene Palmer, president of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates the festivities bring in about $700,000 for the area in dollars spent on hotels, food, services and shopping.

"We are really glad that it continues to be a home event," she said.

There has been some speculation in the past that Celebration could move locales. During the meeting this past week, "the board of trustees looked at all possibilities," Worl said, explaining that "we have actually just outgrown Juneau."

No bids were received this year to move the Celebration to nearby communities. Prior to the 2006 event, both Ketchikan and Sitka encouraged the institute to consider relocating the festivities. Ketchikan pledged an indefinite amount of contributions, while Sitka refrained from bidding.

Juneau pledged $10,000 cash and law enforcement for crowd control. Additionally, the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau promised $5,000 toward the rental of Centennial Hall.

The city has yet to offer a financial contribution for 2008, Worl said, but "I'm sure that they will, being the good hosts that they are."

The event costs the institute approximately $250,000, much of it donated. Additionally, the Sealaska corporation contributes significantly, she said.

The institute is a Native nonprofit that was founded in 1981.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.

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