Canada Day has come and gone. The flag has been praised, the beer has been drunk, and you are swept up in patriotic fervour. You could wait another year to celebrate the birth of a North American democracy, or you could find your way to our Alaskan neighbours a mere three days later and see how the other half celebrates.
You can also try Grito de Dolores, the Mexican independence day on September 16 if you’re looking for the trifecta.
“It’s always nice to tie in with Canada Day,” says Tanya Carlson, Haines’s director of tourism. “The Canadian turnout varies from year to year though, depending on the day of the week July 4 falls on.”
The old cliché (the phrase “old cliché” is itself an old cliché) is that the American and Canadian holidays are celebrated in ways that reflect their origins. Like most clichés, there is a kernel of truth to this. We gained independence as a matter of parliamentary procedure. The Americans declared their independence. It only makes sense that the celebrations stemming from the creation of our respective countries reflects this difference.
The Fourth of July is about a moment in time, and carries a nostalgia for the past. Carlson has noted that when visitors come to Haines, they are often looking for a particular vision of what the Fourth looks like.
“What I have found is, because we’re a small town, people that visit enjoy the experience of a small-town atmosphere for the Fourth of July,” she says. “It kind of makes me think back to the old ’50s TV shows, everybody out in a small community and having cheesecake and root beer floats and watching fireworks.”
Some of the Haines events that stand out are the Mud Volleyball tournament (prepare to get dirty), and the Nail and Spike Pounding Contest. There is also more traditional Fourth of July fair.
This fair includes a parade through downtown and a pie-eating contest (you had me at pie). Also, if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if firefighters stopped saving lives and started fighting each other with hoses (and really, who hasn’t) the Haines firefighters will be putting on a hose fight.
This is not traditional, but we owe it to ourselves to make it so.
If you’d like to party American-style but would rather not go so far, the Skagway Chamber of Commerce is also organizing festivities.
As far as Skagway standouts, there is a 5-kilometre costume run, which promises to be at least as interesting for bystanders as participants.
Not to be outdone by their Haines counterparts, Skagway’s firefighters will be running a Philly cheese steak stand and selling T-shirts for the benefit of the department.
For more information check out the full schedules online at the respective city websites. Whether it’s the maple leaf, the stars and stripes, or a little of both to kick off your July, go out and get your democracy on.