Children participate in a watermelon eating contest Monday evening at a community picnic at Sandy Beach in Douglas. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

Children participate in a watermelon eating contest Monday evening at a community picnic at Sandy Beach in Douglas. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

Celebrating the freedom to begin Fourth festivities early

Watermelon-eating contests, sand dollar search add flavor to beach picnic on eve of Independence Day

In the spirit of Juneau’s tradition of getting an early start on Fourth of July celebrations, hundreds of people gathered at Savikko Park for a community picnic Monday evening before the fireworks show at midnight that marks the beginning of Independence Day.

Attendees indulged in hotdogs, hamburgers and activities — including watermelon-eating contests for various age groups and a sand dollar search for youths.

Douglas firemen Rych Clime, left, beard and Ray Roberts grill burgers and hot dogs near a shelter at Sandy Beach during a community picnic Monday evening. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

Douglas firemen Rych Clime, left, beard and Ray Roberts grill burgers and hot dogs near a shelter at Sandy Beach during a community picnic Monday evening. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

In charge of the grill were Rych Clime and Ray Roberts, both retired firemen from the Douglas Fire Department, which supplied the hamburgers and hotdogs. Clime said they ordered approximately 600-800 hamburgers and hotdogs for the picnic.

“You get out here and see people you haven’t seen in a while,” Clime said. “This is one of the best events in Douglas.”

All participants at the watermelon-eating contest received a silver dollar and winners —- whoever finished their slice first —- received $5. The only rule: no hands allowed. Whoever finished their slice first won.

Child pick up sand dollars along Sandy Beach during a community picnic Monday evening. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

Child pick up sand dollars along Sandy Beach during a community picnic Monday evening. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

For the sand dollar search, participants were separated into age groups — 0-4 years old, 5-8 years old and 9-12 years old — and raced in sections on Sandy Beach to pick up as many sand dollars as they could. All participants received a prize and could take home one sand dollar.

“It’s so fun to watch the kids have such a great time — because that’s what it’s all about,” said Maggie Swanson, president of the Douglas 4th of July Committee, who was in charge of coordinating the activities.

Swanson, a committee volunteer for the past 19 years, highlighted the community-oriented nature of the Fourth of July holiday.

“I love the way it brings everyone together — not just folks in Douglas, but all of Juneau,” she said. “It’s nice to see everyone come out and enjoy our independence.

Maggie Swanson, president of the Douglas Fourth of July committee, gives instructions to youths about to participate in a sand dollar search on Sandy Beach during a community picnic Monday evening. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

Maggie Swanson, president of the Douglas Fourth of July committee, gives instructions to youths about to participate in a sand dollar search on Sandy Beach during a community picnic Monday evening. (Therese Pokorney / Juneau Empire)

Watermelon-eating contest winners by age:

2-3 year olds: Steven Littlefield, Neva Reeder and Makai Kosmerl

5-6 year olds: Cole Dillon and Callaghn Shauley.

7 year olds: Hollis DeGuzman

8-9 year olds: Bessa Korona

10 year olds: Ikahn DeGuzman

11 year olds: Elise Kanouse

12-13 year olds: Darlene White

15-18 year olds: Laihla Jones-Stevenson and Hayden Kuzakin

Adult: Brooklyn Kanouse

• Contact Therese Pokorney at therese.pokorney@juneauempire.com.

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