Sunny weather and unblemished skies drew thousands to downtown Juneau and Douglas on Wednesday for Fourth of July festivities.
Between the parades, firemen’s races, soapbox challenge, music and food vendors, revelers had a lot to take in. But everyone celebrates the holiday differently. Events and people on the periphery of the parades were just as interesting as those in the middle of the biggest float.
Walking toward Savikko Park downhill on Douglas Highway, a barbecue at the Douglas United Methodist Church drew the hungry in by the nose.
But barbecue lovers didn’t have to draw out their wallets to chow down. That is, unless they felt like contributing to Juneau’s food security.
The church put on their annual barbecue fundraiser this year but didn’t charge, said pastor Jason Cornish. They accepted donations for food, or just gave it away. When Cornish thought about it, it didn’t make sense to charge for their plate of pulled pork, beans and potato salad.
“We’re trying to work to eliminate food inequity and food insecurity,” Cornish said.
The church raised about $3,800 at their barbecue last year. Cornish expects to make more this year. It was rainy last year, he said, so they didn’t have as large a turnout. But at nearly 80 degrees this year, dozens flocked to church’s front yard for lemonade and food.
All of the money goes toward providing food for Gastineau Elementary School students and to run a food bank at the church, which is open Wednesdays and Fridays, 2-5 p.m.
“If there’s one person in Juneau who’s hungry, we still have work to do,” Cornish said.
Down the street from United Methodist, past throngs of visitors and locals lining up for the parade, a group of volunteers handed out free water bottles just below the Juneau Montessori School on the corner of Savikko Road and St. Ann’s Avenue.
It’s another church group, this one with Northland Bible Church, hoping to make a difference. Most took Pastor Jim Carter and his volunteers up on their offer of bottled water. That’s a change from last year, Carter said.
“Hot chocolate would have gone over better last year,” he said, referring to the rainy weather.
Another volunteer, Sharon Comstock, said the group has been handing out water bottles for about five years at Fourth of July celebrations.
“It’s a wonderful day for our country to celebrate its birth,” Comstock said.
Passersby took their free water to food vendors near Treadwell Arena, in Savikko Park. A little further down is Sandy Beach, where Lee Stoops could be found gently pressing the edge of a plastic card to a brown bear’s nose.
Stoops survived the provocation of the bear. It was made of sand, after all, one of his projects for this year’s sand castle competition at Sandy Beach.
Ten people participated in the sand castle contest this year, said judge Zane Jones, an architect with MRV Architects. Jones, sitting in the shade behind a small folding table, said he wasn’t given much direction in how to score the sculptures.
Stoops is a three-time winner of the Great American Beach Party in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A former Juneau resident who’s since moved to the Lower 48, Stoops was in town visiting family.
“Your sand here is a little rough,” Stoops said.
Stoops tried to bring his talents closer to festivities in Savikko Park. In about four hours on Tuesday, he created a lion’s head in a mound of sand next to Treadwell Arena. But when he showed up the next morning, vandals had destroyed it, he said.
Stoops’ sculpture, a sow brown bear lying on a log, a cub perched on its hip, looked to be one of the most realistic looking sculptures in the competition. His secret? Looking closely.
“Awareness of things. You see a bear, but you don’t really look at it. … It’s powers of observation,” Stoops said.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.