Story last updated at 10/7/2009 - 11:37 am
SITKA - Bonnets and beards are just two of many things that will be celebrated during the 2009 Alaska Day Festival in Sitka. The observance includes events ranging from a road race to a variety show, the latter of which will feature "entertainment and vignettes from Alaska's past," said coordinator Elaine Strelow.
The variety show will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at Centennial Hall. Admission is $3 and will offer attendees live music, statehood tribute presentations and an opportunity to witness or participate in the beard and bonnet competition.
The judging of men's beards will be performed by the Sitka Emblem Club #142 and women's bonnets will be evaluated by members of the Sitka Elks Lodge #1662. Prizes will be awarded in various categories.
"We get some long time beards, beards that have been growing in existence for a number of years, and then we get some new folks each year that will try to grow a beard," Strelow said. "The judges have great fun with their little ruler measuring."
Strelow said the effort that women put into the bonnet competition in past years has produced very elaborate headwear. Some women have gone as far as to add little birds to their hat's decor in an attempt to be authentic to the 1860s time period to which the competition alludes.
Strelow arrived on Sitka's shore in 1958. Employed in the construction of the pulp mill, she expected to quickly move away -"get off the rock" in her words - as soon as building was complete. Rather, she stuck around, working at the mill until its closure in 1993.
"Alaska grabbed me," Strelow said.
Fifty-one years after her arrival, she is still a proud resident of Sitka.
"I proclaim long and loudly that Sitka is such a historically and culturally significant community," Strelow said. "Over the years, so many incredible things have happened here in Sitka and the Alaska Day Festival is one part of telling that story."
Many different local agencies play a role in the festival. A fourth-grade class from Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary will present historical reenactments. A traveling exhibit will be on display at Centennial Hall. Musicians and dancers will share their performance talents. And no celebration can be properly conducted without food, of which there will be plenty.
"We have many stories to tell," Strelow said. "And to tell those stories with respect for those other cultures that are part of our history here is a labor of love for many of us. We have a lot of fun, but there's also the serious aspect of recognition of the significance of what's gone on in the past here."
View the complete Alaska Day Festival schedule at alaskadayfestival.org.