Marcella Stutte, center, shows her daughter,r Kaysa Korpela, and granddaughter, Kelsey Korpela, the dress she wore to the1959 Statehood festivities and inauguration of William Egan, the first Alaska State Governor. This elegant black velvet dress is v-backed with organza and black lace on the bottom. Now, 50 years later, it just might be back in style.
Story last updated at 12/31/2008 - 12:48 pm
Old-fashioned will be in style this weekend when Capital City Celebrations presents the Juneau Statehood Ball on Jan. 3. It was 50 years ago on Jan. 3 that Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the declaration making Alaska the 49th state.
Anyone planning to attend Alaska's 50th birthday party should already have their ticket, as tickets sold out early last week. Festivities will begin Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. at Centennial Hall.
"That's really exciting!" said Kaysa Korpella, one of the ball's coordinators. Korpella said she and other collaborators have been planning the ball and other statehood celebration events for months.
The ball will be themed in the 50's style with era-specific decorations, informative displays, and a memorabilia room. There are plans to have a mock-up of the historical Percy's Café, which was located at the current location of the Viking Lounge. The replica will be a chance to go back in time and experience the hangout of Juneau's pioneers.
A silent auction will be taking place as well as prizes, hors d'oeuvres, and a cash bar. Attendees are encouraged to dress in period attire and dancing shoes. The Diamonds will be the featured musicians, performing 50's and 60's classics of the doo-wop persuasion.
The ball is only the first of numerous statehood celebrations that Capital City Celebrations (CCC) has planned for 2009. For those who didn't get their ball tickets in time, there will be a fireworks display, weather permitting, the following day at 4 p.m. at Dimond Park in the valley. The pyrotechnicians are the same ones who produce the annual July 4th show downtown.
"The only thing that stands in our way is if there's an inversion layer from wood burning or if there's a blizzard," Korpella said.
She said they plan to make a decision by noon on Dec. 4 whether or not to go on with the display, at which point the radio stations and other players will be notified and spread the word. If all goes as scheduled, there is plenty of parking nearby at the high school and the ballparks, and spectators are encouraged to dress warmly.
Events in store
The fireworks will be the end of the initial celebration weekend, but there are various other events going on throughout the winter and spring, culminating with an extra special July 4th celebration.
Perseverance Theatre will be joining the celebration in March with their production of "Battles of Fire and Water," which will run from March 1 through April 5. Written by Dave Hunsaker and directed by Laurie McCants, the play centers on the Russian invasions of Sitka in the early 1800s. It takes a unique perspective on the battles, showing both the Tlingit and Russian points of view. On March 13 and 14, CCC will be serving refreshments and have some historical panels on display to accompany the performance.
In April, Perseverance will continue the celebration with "8 Stars of Gold," another play in honor of statehood, written by Ryan Conarro and Maia K. Nolan. Conarro also directed. "8 Stars" will run from Apr. 2-19 and features characters from Alaska's early days telling their stories.
Perseverance turns 30
In addition to Alaska statehood, Jan. 3 is also the day that Perseverance Theatre will celebrate its 30th birthday.
There will be a quilt show on Mar. 28-29 featuring a statehood quilt made by a collaboration of quilters around Juneau. The quilt will be on display at the show and raffle tickets will be sold. The winner will be announced at the flag-raising ceremony on Jul. 4.
There are still plans brewing for more statehood celebration events, which will be announced as plans are finalized.
The 4th of July celebration this year will be a bit more extravagant than usual in honor of statehood. Ideas are still in motion, but there are plans for a free community picnic, a docked naval ship and an Air Force band. CCC is encouraging groups to design floats imitating those in the 1959 parade.
"We have all sorts of pictures of those early floats and some of them were a lot of fun," Korpella said.
Of course, Juneau is only one of many cities around the state holding all types of statehood celebrations this year.
"We've had to kind of work our way up the ladder so we could have these nice events and I'm really proud of the things we've done around here," Korpella said. "I think it's meant to be a Juneau celebration of statehood, Fairbanks can have a Fairbanks celebration of statehood, and so on. There's really no comparison between each town."