SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Summer in Soggy City


July 07, 2011

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska -
At  6:05 pm on  July 4, our phone rang.
jpg Dave Kiffer

I leapt for the phone. And started stumbling over furniture to get to it.

I knew instantly it was the Rotary Folks calling to tell me that we had won the Duck Race.

For years we had bought ticket after ticket after ticket after ticket from Judge Keene.

And then suffered as our rubber (actually plastic) ducks got caught in the eddys of Ketchikan Creek and finished well out of the money.

But now our ship – uh Duck – had finally come in.

And I was ready spend that $2,500, instantly.

Just the thing to brighten up a not so stellar Fourth of July.

It had been raining for days before. So I was telling everyone it would “break” just before parade as it had so many times before. It never rains on the parade, so the conventional wisdom goes.

Of course, it didn’t.

At least the parade was going with the elements. It would have been much worse parading into the wind on Monday. We’d probably still be marching now.

Rain and wind – gusting and disgusting – to 40 knots and above.

But still we made do, as we always do here. We paraded.

I had planned to ride in the back of a convertible and toss candy to the masses, but with the roof up that wouldn’t have worked so well.

Besides, the other mayors decided to “walk” so I couldn’t be such a wimp.

Actually, walking turned out to be a good thing because it kept me warm. At least compared to the people who sat on the floats all three miles.

I felt felt particularly sorry for the Grand Marshalettes. By the end the parade, Elizabeth, Marguerite and Kathleen looked pretty bedraggled in their chairs.

They also looked kinda like the people in those 1950s film strips, the ones strapped into the rocket sleds. Only they got to ride for two hours rather than two minutes.

What was surprising was that so many people turned out for the parade. Locals especially.

Nothing like standing in the wet and cold watching someone go by who is even more wet and cold!

"Look at that guy, honey, he is really red, white and BLUE!!!"

I wasn’t surprised that the visitors were out in force.

I – of course - would have probably stayed on the boat in my comfy stateroom.

But if you spend a thousand dollars each to see Alaska you don’t want to watch it on the Lido Deck Jumbotron.

Besides how often do you get to see an honest to God, cast of thousands, real American small town Fourth of July Parade?

“You’re really going to have a parade, in this weather?” a visitor from Saskatchewan asked me before the parade.

Well, yes, this is Ketchikan, after all.

We take pride in doing well what ought not to be done at all.

So, of course, the parade goes on, rain or more rain (the shine part is not applicable in these here parts).

But you can’t expect the visitors to understand that, they have returned, once again, with their general lack of understanding anything.

A few weeks ago, a woman stopped me.

“Young man,” she said (I love it when someone calls me young!).”What do you call  that?”

She was pointing at dandelion.

“A dandelion, ma’am.”

She looked very surprised.

“Why, that’s what we call them back home!”

A few days later, I came upon a family leaning over the Park Avenue bridge looking for salmon. The father – a supercilious sort – was holding court, explaining at length about the fish they would see if they just peered harder into rumbling falls.

I thought I should try to be helpful.

“There aren’t many fish in the creek yet,” I offered. “Most of the pinks come back in August and September.”

“We’ll wait,” the father hissed back at me.

Okay. At least no one has asked me how much Deer Mountain weighs this summer. Yet.

But as usual I digress.

Oh yeah, back to the phone call.

Turned out it was Charlotte’s Dad calling from Albuquerque.

No, we did not win the Duck Race.


Now, Grampa knows why we were less than thrilled to hear his voice.

On the Web:

More Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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