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The Parade - A Highlight of Petersburg, AK


Others participated in the Parade of Lights.  Others joined the crowd whose faces turned ghostly green lit by the glow sticks in their hand.  They hymned their way down PFI Hill and joined the throng around the community Christmas tree like so many Whos in Who-ville.  But I was part of pretty much every other parade in banner-hung Petersburg.

Floats and participants would line up on PFI Hill as far back as Eagle Roost Park. The Norwegian and American flags usually lead the parade.  I helped hoist them with the helicopter at least once.  While Mad Jack lifted the long line into the air I made sure the line didn’t get coiled and that the flags did not  get stuck. God forbid I let the slack longline curl across by back.  Mad Jack was famous for jerking the loads into the air and dragging the flags down Nordic.  No wonder I got hazard pay for working under the ship.

Often the fire engines would lead he way.  Back in the day us firefighters rode on the tailgate. (It was quite the ride as the fire engines leaped from the fire hall to Nordic as the old city hall sank year-by-year into the muskeg.)  The children including the future founder of Alaskan Seafood Guys huddled atop the ankle-trapping hose beds. There they tossed candy in the wake of the these 15-ton slow-braking juggernauts.  Hmm.

Our family usually decorated a sage-green truck and/or boat on a trailer with flags, posters and children all escorted by Woodsy the Owl, Sammy the Salmon and most famous of all Smokey the Bear.

The Lutheran Church always participated in the parade.  One time I was part of a choir of dancing pastors. Dressed in  gowns to represent chasuble albas, we rather ghost-like danced about in masks depicting deceased pastors.

My son performed as a Norwegian Dancer for tourist and at the pageant during Mayfest .  The  paraded would stop allowing them to perform dances from the old country. They wore navy waistcoats with matching knickers and red tasseled socks or light-blue bunards embroidered with local wild flowers.  But mostly Heidi lead them in a serene serpentine stroll back and forth across Nordic Drive.  Graceful at the start its tail whipped itself into a rollicking game of crack the whip.

My son too, marched with the little-league All-Star team, brandishing balls, bats, gloves and giggles.  The eagles watched from their roosts in the park.

And finally the viking ship the M/V Valhalla (on a trailer) appeared.  Fresh from terrorizing the crew of a Japanese fish process stuck in fog on Prince Frederick Sound  she carries totters.  The gunwales of this dragon ship protect those in viking gear and bunards to young to march in the parade.  She barrels down the street the red and white bars of her shining sail emblazoned with a double-headed raven. Illegal phone line strung across the street snap under the weight of her mast. The last of the candy in the street if flatten by the tumult of her charge.  Her figurehead is ablaze with fire and smoke.  She is escorted by us shield-beating, bear-skin clad, grog-guzzling vikings and valkyries!  The cannery whistles blow!  The police siren yips! And all the people of banner-hung roar in response to exclamations of “Skoal!”