PUBLISHED: 2:29 PM on Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Celebration to stay in Juneau in 2006

Sealaska Heritage Institute has decided to hold Celebration 2006 in Juneau instead of changing venues for the first time since its inception, an idea floated by SHI late last year.

The institute made the decision on Wednesday after its board of trustees reviewed bids from Ketchikan and the capital city, which offered a total of $15,000, in-kind support to help fund security and a pledge to help the institute secure additional sponsors.

"It really was the financial contribution that Juneau made whereas the other community had expressions of a lot of support but there were no real firm commitment," said Worl, emphasizing the trustees were impressed by the number of Ketchikan organizations that had expressed interest in hosting Celebration.

Celebration 2006 will be held June 1-3.

The trustees on Wednesday also told the institute to explore the possibility of sponsoring small Celebrations in other communities in years the main Celebration is not scheduled. SHI frequently gets requests from shareholders living in Anchorage, Seattle and other Southeast communities to hold Celebration in their towns and the trustees hope to accommodate them on some level, said Worl.

"They talked about having mini Celebrations coinciding with other events, and they expressly mentioned the possibility of Anchorage when Anchorage opens up its expanded museum," Worl said.

The institute decided in December to solicit bids from Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka in hopes the communities would be willing to help offset the huge cost of Celebration, a dance-and-culture festival sponsored by SHI every two years and held in Juneau since 1982.

Celebration, one of the largest events in the state, costs roughly $250,000. Approximately half of that amount is recovered through contributions and ticket and retail sales and the rest is underwritten by Sealaska, a regional Native corporation.

The festival is prosperous for the host community because it draws thousands of people from Alaska and outside the state, so SHI's board of trustees directed staff to see what facilities might be available in other communities and what kind of support they might be able to render in sponsorship of the festival.

The City and Borough of Sitka declined to bid on the project, according to a letter by City Administrator Hugh Bevan, who noted the event is too large for his community.

The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau submitted a bid on behalf of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the City of Ketchikan. Ketchikan was eager to host the festival, but the institute decided against it because the bid did not explicitly commit any resources to help fund Celebration. The trustees recognized this may in part be due to the short turn-around time given bidders to submit a full proposal. Ketchikan did pledge its help in trying to secure in-kind donations and financial support, if a decision were made to hold the event there.

The City and Borough of Juneau submitted a bid pledging $10,000, according to a letter from Mayor Bruce Botelho, who noted the city also would be willing to provide additional security during Celebration.

The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau also submitted a bid pledging $5,000 toward rental of Centennial Hall. In addition, representatives from the bureau and the Downtown Business Association offered to help SHI solicit donations from the business community.

"The Trustees were very pleased with the bid that came in from Juneau. It was truly an expression of support and also cooperation with Sealaska Heritage Institute," Worl said.

The institute initially announced it would seek a bid from Anchorage but later decided against it, fearing the extra travel costs would put too much of a financial burden on participants. However, Anchorage was eager to submit a bid and the institute has not ruled it out for future Celebrations, if that community can help offset travel costs.

Celebration 2006 will mark the 24th year of the event, which began in 1982 to celebrate the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Celebration 2004 drew record crowds, attracting approximately 5,000 people, including 1,700 dancers from Alaska, the Lower 48, New Zealand and Canada. The 2004 festival was broadcast live on statewide television and on the Internet and included a Juried Art Show and Competition, a Native Artists Market, a parade through downtown and a black seaweed contest.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1981 to administer cultural and educational programs for Sealaska Corp. The institute is governed by an all-Native board of trustees. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.