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Myriad ways to celebrate Fourth of July in Fairbanks

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Posted: Friday, July 1, 2011 11:07 pm | Updated: 1:15 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Residents and visitors to Fairbanks have several options for celebrating America’s independence this coming Fourth of July, including an eccentric parade, a Christmas-themed festival and a more traditional offering with games, speeches and military fanfare.

The Christmas spirit strikes again in North Pole, about 15 miles southeast of Fairbanks on the Richardson Highway. “Sleighbells Ring for Freedom” is this year’s holiday theme.

The day begins with a pancake breakfast at Santa’s Senior Center. The breakfast is available by donation and lasts from 8:30-10 a.m.

People may want to go light on the breakfast if they plan to enter the Elf Run, a “short” 5-kilometer event. Registration opens at 9 a.m. and T-shirts can be purchased for $20. The race starts at 9:30 at the Santa Claus House and ends at the same place.

Parade floats will line up along St. Nicholas Drive by St. Nicholas Church at 10 a.m. Walking participants can meet at the First Baptist Church on Fifth Avenue, along with kids’ bike decorating contests entrants, also at 10 a.m. The parade commences at 11 a.m. and goes along Santa Claus Lane to St. Nicholas Drive.

After the parade, there will be games, entertainment and food booths at the Christmas Creek Market. The afternoon highlights include a greased pig contest and a bed race. Mayor Doug Isaacson said catching the greased pig will not be easy.

“Most people will not succeed,” and the pig will be laughing, he said.

As for the bed race, Isaacson said the spectacle is worth watching. Teams of five race beds with four people pushing and one person clad in pajamas riding. The winner earns a $300 prize. Information on the race can be found at www.northpolealaska.com.

The mayor hopes this year’s celebration is “even more spectacular event than in the past. We’re hoping that it’ll be jam-packed,” he said.

Pioneer Park’s ceremony will honor tradition and military troops with speeches, music and fun games for kids.

From 11 a.m. to noon, the U.S. Army Alaska Arctic Warrior Band will welcome people to the park with tunes. At noon, the ceremony begins with the presentation of colors by the joint Ft. Wainwright/Eielson Air Force Base Honor Guard. Aboard the S.S. Nenana, Rep. Bob Miller, Eielson’s Brig. Gen. James Post and Army Alaska’s Col. Mark Lowe will speak, among others. After the ceremony, there will be kids’ games, face painting and more music around the park. From 1-5 p.m., there will be an Interior Freight Dog Association pulling event in the Civic Center courtyard.

Those looking for an alternative patriotic celebration can head to Ester, about five miles southwest of Fairbanks on the Parks Highway. A parade that regularly boasts colorfully dressed characters, political protests and local business floats begins at noon. It’s not your typical stars-and-stripes fare, but it is memorable nonetheless.

Sign-up begins at 11 a.m. in the village square. The parade goes down Main Street to Village Road then on to Old Nenana Highway. The paraders pass by a judges’ platform, where bribes in any form (except money) are readily welcomed and expected. The festivities converge at the Ester Community Park for a picnic and potluck and continuing fun. The bribes come in handy for the awards ceremony afterward, when judges choose floats for awards.

The Ester Republic newspaper’s blog warns people that this parade isn’t necessarily politically correct. Expect noisiness, too, as fire trucks pass by, bagpipers entertain and the crowd cheers.

Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523.

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