As the nation prepares to celebrate Fourth of July, events in Interior Alaska are smaller this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fewer venues are hosting celebratory parades or parties, and one of the most notable venues in the region has announced it is not opening for the season.
The Howling Dog Saloon in Fox was slated to open Friday for the summer. Owner Ralph Glasgow said after talking with employees, the decision was made to not open this year.
“The Howling Dog Saloon will ‘Let the Dog Sleep’ due to COVID-19,” Glasgow wrote in an official statement from the saloon in Fox. “Our business is like a dog in its natural state: rambling, noisy, carefree, friendly and sometimes messy. In our roadhouse-style and traveler-friendly nightclub, we just can’t be ourselves and also consistently follow the current health guidelines of 6-foot distancing and/or masks on.
“With the addition of new of COVID-19 positive test results in Fairbanks, and throughout Alaska, we feel it’s best to Let the Dog Sleep in the interest of public health and safety. We encourage our friends and patrons to continue following health guidelines and nurture their social connections in smaller groups. We thank our Howling Dog Crew for their patience with our decision process, and thank the artists we would normally hire to play our venue, whether or not they were comfortable performing publicly this season.
“We appreciate our patrons who have hoped we could navigate the COVID-19 situation and open our doors to the public, and look forward to bumping into you on the dance floor when circumstances permit. Cheers!”
On Wednesday, Alaska reported 42 new cases of COVID-19, marking 436 active cases among state residents. The active number of cases in the Fairbanks North Star Borough was 60 as of Wednesday.
As of Tuesday, seven active cases have been linked to bars statewide, according to Alaska’s Chief Medical Office Anne Zink. Zink called attending bars “high risk” in a Tuesday press conference.
And while gatherings at concerts or bars is discouraged by state health officials, some communities are hosting smaller events to celebrate the holiday.
Two Rivers is hosting its annual Fourth of July picnic with burgers, hot dogs, drinks and games starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Highland games, for ages 18 to 60, are slated to start at noon. The location is 23.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road, located behind Pleasant Valley Store. More information about the event can be found on Facebook.
Ester, long known for its quirky parade poking fun at politics and politicians, is putting its parade and picnic on hold this year.
“We regret having to cancel and look forward to future celebrations,” Ester Community Association President Monique Musick said in an email to the News-Miner. “We have asked the community to share pictures from parades and picnics past on our social media, so that we may virtually celebrate Ester’s Independence Day traditions while keeping our community safe.”
On Wednesday, News-Miner columnist Kris Capps reported Healy was moving forward with its parade on Saturday. The Denali Chamber of Commerce sponsors the event, which includes floats, bicycles and dogs, all parading on Healy Spur Road. The parade begins at 11 a.m. at the Totem Inn parking lot and ends at the Tri-Valley Community Center. There will not be a post-parade party at the Tri-Valley Community Center this year, she wrote in her column.
Also in Healy, the Healy Valley Lions Club plans to host its annual Fourth of July Community Barbecue at Otto Lake after the parade. Social distancing measures will be in place, according to club president Krista Zappone.
In Nenana, family events like races and contests for all ages will start at 11 a.m. in downtown.
Social distancing will be in place, and organizers ask participants to consider wearing masks or face coverings over your nose and mouth. “Do not crowd others,” a poster for the event says. “If shouting, be sure that there is no one in front of you.” If you are sick, please do not attend for the protection of others, the poster also states.
Community Editor Kris Capps contributed to this report. Contact Features Editor Gary Black at 459-7504 or at twitter.com/FDNMfeatures.