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A Booming Downtown Petersburg, AK

Coming from the south on Mitkof Highway you pass over one of the two bridges that span Hammer Slough and enter downtown Petersburg.  The road is named Nordic Drive by now.  Downtown ends a few civilized blocks further north as Nordic rises up Five Sisters Hill.

Most major holidays you enter downtown beneath a pair of enormous flags; American and Norwegian.  If you don’t know the American flag is a field of 13 alternating red and white bars and a canton of deep blue with fifty, five-point, white stars.  The Norwegian flag is a field of red with Scandinavian Cross in white topped by blue.  If they aren’t there, they’ll be yoked beneath a helicopter soon leading the parade.

You’ll be saluted first by pair of weather-darkened  totem poles; raven and eagle. Then by a pair of American and Alaskan flags on either side of the street; court house and ranger district.

Here the street lights sprout hanging baskets full of flowers rising skyward or trailing towards the earth.   Above them hang banners, emblematic of the sponsoring organizations back in the day, some years painted with local flower or more recently images of the graduating class.   Below on the ground you will tread on large medallions picturing local life in brass and blue glass on the side walk and rose-mauled designs in the concrete . Come winter the banners will be replaced by Christmas decorations, somewhat lame ones during the introduction of LEDs lights but all better now.

Buschmann Park burst with flowers and a statue of a little kid fishing, and now Viking Travel with a statue of Bruno the Bear hidden among the colorful shrubberies.

Now is the first of the beer gardens gracing Nordic; Ingas with Del Gato and others and Coastal Cold Storage with the Pickled Herring Band, locales and maybe the Air Force Band back in the day.

Next the parade of lit store fronts and holiday dressed windows.  Overhead stream the Christmas lights of the stores.  Generally white and left on long after julebukking in bad times.

At Excel Street brightly-colored plastic ducklings run into Nordic Drive during the   annual Rotary fundraiser.  At Dolphin Street red fire engines join the parade and across the street Santa us to land in a red and white Hughes 500.

Here is the go-cart race down from PFI Hill.  Generations of Peterburgers including the future founder of Alaskan Seafood Guys, rode down the hill in ancient go-carts saved for the annual event. (I painted his sky-blue.)

Slighter higher of OBI Hill, the parade participants gather for Norwegian Independence Day, American Independence Day, St. Patricks Day, the Lights Parade during julebukking and all the other “just because” parades.

And just beyond,  a few steps out of downtown, atop PFI Hill you can see the the three Sukoi Islands, sheer Horns Cliff , Thomas Bays, the Land of Strangest Story Ever Told, the trackless mainland, the foreboding ice fields, gray waters of Frederick Sound and the eternal Wilderness beyond.

Author - William Moulton