Interior Alaskans are celebrating all that is patriotic Thursday as the nation observes its 243rd birthday.
Despite the near-constant summer daylight and lack of fireworks this year (extreme fire danger prompted an almost statewide ban), there are still events and celebrations honoring the founding of the United States.
Here are some of the most popular events in Interior Alaska that draw spectators and participants honoring community and country.
Officially called the North Pole July 4th Festival and Parade, the annual event showcases the patriotic town just outside Fairbanks, with this year’s theme being “Winter is Coming.” Big draws include a pancake breakfast, parade, and softball game between the North Pole Police Department and Eielson Air Force Base Iceman team.
Mayor Mike Welch is involved in the organization and already on pancake duty. “I’ve made sure there’s enough pancake mix for 1,040 pancakes,” he said.
The pancake breakfast is 8-10 a.m. at Santa’s Senior Center, 101 E. Sixth Ave., with the parade lineup starting at 9:30 a.m. and the parade starting at 10 a.m. The softball game is 1-3 p.m., with prizes for parade entries dispersed at 3 p.m. as well.
“We probably still have the largest parade in the state on the Fourth of July, and that’s nice,” Welch said. “It’s very festive, and it’s the whole community. Anybody who happens to be near us, we’re like a magnet — we bring them right in. It’s not just the parade itself, it’s the activities and the community.”
For a more detailed listing of the day’s events, including the parade route, see the organizers’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NorthPoleJuly4.
Ester knows how to have a good time, and the annual Ester 4th of July Parade and Potluck Pig Roast puts it on full display.
“Not only does Ester host the best — and quirkiest — Independence Day parade around, the potluck-picnic-pig roast is a critical fundraiser to support the purchase and maintenance of the Ester Community Park,” said Monique Musick, president of the Ester Community Association. “Everyone is welcome – we like to say that Ester is a state of mind, and if you are of a community-focused mind, you are welcome in ours.”
Spectators start lining the Old Nenana Highway about 11 a.m. to get a spot for the parade, which starts at noon in downtown Ester and travels to Ester Community Park for the potluck. The parade is cute and concise but filled with fun.
“Each year since 1999 we have grown and improved, and we look forward to once again saying that this is the best Fourth of July yet,” Musick said.
For more details on the parade and potluck, see the community association’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/EsterCommunityAssociation.
Pioneer Park, 2300 Airport Way, is home to a day celebrating the Fourth with events slated from 1-8 p.m. Being a holiday, you can expect the park to be full of guests and visitors for the day’s events, which are many.
A rundown of planned events include:
• Band performances around park
• A 1 p.m. flag ceremony
• Presentations in the air museum at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
• A kids parade at 2:30 p.m. led by the Red Hackle Pipe Band
• Fourth of July games slated for 3:30 p.m.
• A Fairbanks Community Band concert slated for 6 p.m.
For a more detailed list of events, see the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s web page featuring Pioneer Park.
Fourth of July festivities have been ongoing in Nenana for 105 years. The celebration begins in Nenana with a Veterans Appreciation Pancake Feed at 9 a.m. at the Nenana Civic Center. Everyone is welcome. More festivities continue starting at 11 a.m., with family fun, races and contests for all ages — including the famous Nenana game where “everyone wins a quarter.”
“Invite your friends, invite your family,” said Annette McDonald, who is delighted she gets to hand out the quarters.
Healy will celebrate two special occasions this week — the Healy Centennial and the Fourth of July.
For the Healy Centennial, longtime resident Bev Mitchell will present a slide show at 6 p.m. today at the Denali Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. She’ll be available to answer questions and invites other longterm residents to come and share personal stories about Healy.
The annual 4th of July parade begins at 11 a.m. Thursday. It starts at the Totem Inn and Cafe parking lot and travels down the Healy Spur Road to the Tri-Valley Community Center.
After the parade, attendees can head to Otto Lake for old-fashioned games, history presentations and a community barbecue. The barbecue begins at 12:30 p.m. The Healy Birthday Cake will be cut at 12:45 p.m., after welcome speeches.
Old-fashioned games begin at 1 p.m. and include a three-legged race, watermelon eating contest, sack races, egg catch, pie-eating contest, water brigade and more. There will be bouncy houses for kids and lots of Healy 100 merchandise for sale.
Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures. Community Editor Kris Capps contributed to this report.