It’s already mid-October and here in Alaska that means shorter days with cooler temps across the state. This is the time of the year when tourists and seasonals are finally gone, happily leaving us locals to our own devices. Sweet. More time to engage in the land without all of the stress of outsiders… You know what I’m saying: its about finally being able to walk around your house buck nekkid once the guests have departed. Yeah, it’s just like that, minus the burning retinas.
For the people of Sitka, however, it’s the annual Alaska Day celebration – a time to reflect on the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia which officially occurred on October 18, 1867. This “reflecting” includes a mock transfer ceremony, a costume ball, week-long contests, fund-raising “slave auctions,” parties and liver-wrenching depravity going on at all the finer watering holes. I personally have been auctioned off *for Jerry’s Kids* a couple times over the decades. One time I was purchased in a high bidding war, and the winner was an ex-husband. Made for an awkward slave-master relationship, but that’s another story. Nonetheless, the festival culminates with a glorious parade featuring MEN IN KILTS who absolutely thrill the ladies with their bags. Oh yeah, they also play music with some very awkward pipe-sort of instruments.
As for the Alaska Native community, Alaska Day is roughly the equivalent of Columbus Day in the lower 48, seeing as no one asked the aboriginal people what they thought about the whole transfer of THEIR land. While many Alaska Native people refuse to participate in events, there are some that do partake in the more entertaining aspects of the celebratory atmosphere, and I commend their tolerance. I am a white girl, and as such, historically have only been interested in the men in kilts. Okay, that plus the sheer entertainment factor of mixing professional bar-flies with the amateur (paid holiday off) drinkers that populate the bars for certain events.
Alas, I am away at school this year and cannot give you the news from the front lines. Instead, in the spirit of those pesky exes that don’t quite understand the meaning of “Eat my dust, Bozo,” I am yanking from the best of the WSW archives, and reprinting Sitka’s Annual Tartan Wingding edition.
Enjoy it. Again.
Just like he did.
Sitka’s Annual Tartan Wingding – WSW – October 2008
It’s mid-October. Around here, that can only mean one thing. Oh yes, the weather is more blustery and the termination dust is creeping down the mountains and the streets are noticeably more navigable than they were just a few weeks ago in the throes of tourist season. However, recurring natural phenomena pale in comparison to the Alaska Day festivities that are unfolding in Sitka this week. Men in kilts. That should be enough. But it gets better. They will be playing bagpipes and drums and marching from bar to bar to bar astonishing us with their muscular legs, drinking skills, and oh yeah, musical abilities.
Alaska Day is on October 18, commemorating the anniversary of the transfer of the Alaskan Territory from Russia to the U.S. in 1867. Although it is a legal State holiday, Sitka is the only community where it is truly celebrated. The festivities, lasting approximately 10 days, is reminiscent of the Big Easy during Mardi Gras, sans the bare-breasted babes and plastic beads. (Well, that’s not entirely true: things can get pretty naked and sparkly around here in the Land of the Midnight Sun…) Nonetheless, iniquitous late night happenings dovetail seamlessly with a bevy of family-friendly events that include a croquet tournament, variety shows, performances by Highland Dancers and the Pipe Band (featuring men in kilts), 9th Army Band musical entertainment, food booths, a parade (featuring men in kilts), a reenactment of the 1867 transfer ceremony, races, USCG air-sea demonstrations, and historical tours.
Bright red lipstick kisses adorn the faces of local citizens, strategically placed by sexy clown babes dressed in garish Keystone Cop regalia. For $2, you can be spared the facial tattoo and purchase a commemorative button that helps pay for some of the festival events (like bringing the men in kilts to town). Anyone caught without a button on the 18th risks a humiliating incarceration in the makeshift clink. Good times… good times. Despite the continuous rain, there is a general air of levity about town, enhanced by all the silly merriment and seasonal goodwill. Did I mention the men in kilts?
Even though demographics of recent years indicate that the ratio of men to women in Sitka has greatly leveled to an even playing field, there is still the sheer pleasure of seeing new faces (read kilts) when the Seattle Firefighters Pipe Band members arrive. On behalf of Sitka’s female population, the WSW is very grateful for the good and charitable work that these brave pipers provide when they grace our community every October with good cheer and snappy music. And kilts.
* Big thank you to Cyndi C/That’s Haute© for the photos!
* Old black & white photo from the Alaska State Library archives