Fourth of July in Wrangell reflects the good nature, self-reliance and community service found in many midwestern farm communities. This is a patriotic, Island-American enclave in a sea of salmon and whales in wild Alaska.
People here look you in the eye and greet you at every turn.
Wrangell has been governed by four nations: Tlingit, Russia, Great Britain and the United States, and has seen many booms and busts, but now appears trapped happily somewhere in the mid twentieth century. Tidy homes and gardens overlook the working waterfront which exhibits an architectural idiom featuring shipping containers. Yachts moor alongside fishing boats, and there is easy interaction between visitors, native people, locals, migrants, and anyone else. People here are proud of their town.
Trapper’s pelts are sold at the hardware and pharmacy. A nearby garnet mine was deeded to the perpetual benefit of local children who mine the stones by hand and sell them for educational funds.
Fourth of July celebrations include an extended, home-grown parade, street dances, lumberjack contests, fireworks and fundraisers that send local kids to college, log rolling, high-speed boat races, and crazy-float races where everyone gets a bath in the chilly harbor.
There are many food stalls, and for vegetarians in the know, a Bloody Mary bar is located in the back of an unnamed tavern on Front Street.
Official fireworks are on the 3rd at twilight, 11 PM, but throwing firecrackers in the street is encouraged at all times, and there is a second unofficial pyrotechnics display on the 4th that continues until dark, midnight.
“When you walk to town keep your hands out of your pockets so you can wave back when people wave to you.” – Local resident giving directions to town.
“As I approached the dumpster a driver started honking and swerved towards me to warn me that there was a bear inside.” – Neighboring yachtsman attempting to dispose of trash.
“Wrangell is a place you can truly call home because you can be whoever you want to be and people will accept you.” – Sharon Deemer, Wrangell Sentinel