Anybody can be a miner or a logger, even just for one day.
That is the one of the reasons that Juneau Gold Rush Days has been such a successful event in its now 28th year, where residents and visitors can join in with local miners and loggers in a two-day festival celebrating those two industries at Savikko Park in Douglas.
“When we first started Gold Rush, we wanted to bring families together to meet the miners and present ourselves as no different that anyone else,” said Jerry Harmon, President of the Juneau Gold Rush Commission and a miner for 43 years. “We wanted people to know we go to church, we have families, that we fish and we hunt just like everybody else. We wanted to have competitions set up to show people mining and logging work. Now we have it so anybody that would like to be a miner or a logger for a day can participate even if they have not mined or logged a day in their life.”
Gold Rush Days, which is held from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. both Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17 includes two days of friendly competition in mining and logging events. Saturday is dedicated to mining and features events like jackleg drilling, spike driving, team drilling and hand mucking. Sunday features logging events that include climbing, chopping and axe throwing. The weekend concludes with a miners vs. loggers tug-of-war for bragging rights followed by an awards ceremony. On both days, children and adults can also participate in gold panning and there is also a children’s carnival.
Children and teenagers will also have the opportunity to participate both days. Harmon said the event has become a family tradition for many Juneau residents.
“It has always been a family event,” Harmon said. “We have adults competing now who were competing in the kids’ events years ago. The children events have always been real big because it gives them something to do.”
According to the Alaska Miners Association, a total of approximately 9,000 had jobs attributed to the mining industry in the state, with 1,600 of those jobs in Southeast Alaska. Also Greens Creek Mine ($1.7 million) and Kensington Mine ($1.4 million) were the top-two property tax payers to the City and Borough of Juneau.
The logging industry employs about 400 people in the state, according to the Alaska Forest Association in 2016.
Harmon, who has mined in Juneau since 1985 and has traveled the world mining, said the festival attracts about 10,000 people over the two-day period. Not bad considering when the event first started in 1990, it was only planned to last a for a couple years, Harmon said. The weekend-long celebration also features food and craft vendors. Harmon said he always hopes the weekend gives people a glimpse into the industries they may know very little about.
“Our mission has always been to educate the people of Juneau and Southeast Alaska about the mining and logging industries’ past, present and future,” Harmon said.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at email@example.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.