Scenes from the Juneau Fourth of July parade in 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Scenes from the Juneau Fourth of July parade in 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Juneau parades will be packed with political participants

Crowded primaries for Alaska House mean lots of floats, candy

In the first week of July 1776, John Adams sat down to write a letter to his wife about the Continental Congress’ recent adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty,” he wrote to Abigail Adams. “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

On Wednesday, at the other end of the continent from Adams’ original thought, people from across the City and Borough of Juneau will gather in downtown Juneau and downtown Douglas to fulfill his dream. And while Adams thought the “great anniversary” would be July 2, instead of July 4, this week’s celebrations will be in the same spirit.

“Democracy takes engaged citizens, and that’s what the Fourth of July is to remind us of. We all need to be engaged in this together,” said Sara Hannan, a Democratic candidate for House District 33.

Early Americans conceived of July 4 as a political holiday, and that hasn’t changed. Since this year coincides with an election year, Juneau’s Fourth of July parades will be particularly political, featuring local, state and national candidates (or their representatives).

“People have a tendency to not vote for somebody that they don’t know and don’t recognize,” said Juneau Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis, explaining why political candidates make parades a priority.

Nankervis is the Republican candidate for House District 34 and intends to march in the parade with a flatbed truck and volunteers.

While social media allows a candidate to spread a message, “a handshake goes a long ways” toward making a personal connection, he said.

“That personal touch makes a big difference.”

CBJ Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl, now the Democratic candidate for Senate District Q, offered similar thoughts.

“Parades are just a great chance to get out and shake hands and greet people,” he said.

When he sees someone in a parade, he might remember that person later in the campaign season when he knocks on doors.

“Walking in the parade is a great opportunity to just be part of that longstanding tradition, to show the flag on a day full of flags,” he said.

Kiehl will be walking with volunteers and an electric car while handing out saltwater taffy. He said he prefers having a smaller vehicle in the parade because one year he drove a large truck and was worried the entire time about being able to see any children who might dart in front of the vehicle.

“That’s one of the more stressful things I’ve done,” he said of the experience.

From House District 33, which covers downtown Juneau, Douglas Island, Haines, Skagway and Gustavus, independent candidate Chris Dimond said he will be marching in both Juneau and Douglas parades with a group and a decorated truck “loaded up with candy and political swag.”

Afterward, he said the group intends to gather for a barbecue at a house near the start of the soapbox derby in Douglas.

Democratic candidate Steve Handy said he will be marching in the Juneau and Douglas parades with a decorated truck and “a few volunteers being characters.”

He said being in the parade is about exposure: “See people, be seen, that kind of thing, but it’s mostly about having fun.”

Fellow Democratic candidate Hannan is eschewing a truck in favor of a vintage Jaguar convertible.

“It’s not mine,” she said.

Hannan is running against Handy in the District 33 Democratic primary and thinks she has an edge.

“I do have better candy than anyone else: Swedish Fish,” she said. Hannan has been advertising her race with a salmon logo.

“I’m going to go with my logo,” she said.

Tom Morphet, a District 33 Democratic candidate from Haines, did not return a phone call from the Empire on Friday. James Hart, also a District 33 Democratic candidate from Haines, said he will be in Sitka for the holiday.

Don Etheridge, who is running against Kiehl as an independent in the race for Senate District Q, said he’s going to have his truck towing his skiff. The skiff will be filled with his grandchildren and emblazoned with an appropriate slogan: “Cast your vote with Don Etheridge.”

There will be plenty of candy, he said. “You can’t be in the parade without candy.”

In the House District 34 race, Democratic candidate Andi Story said she will be walking with supporters and handing out stickers and miniature Frisbees in both parades.

“It’s just a fun time,” she said.

Independent candidate Rob Edwardson (who is running against Story in the Democratic primary) said he will have a truck towing a skiff, like Etheridge, but his skiff has a distinctive story.

“The reason that I’m towing my boat is that I basically want to advertise it that I built it in a (University of Alaska Southeast) class,” he said. “They don’t have the class anymore, but while they had it, it was full every time.”

Edwardson also said he’s being careful to limit the number of volunteers with him.

“If you get too many, the candy goes too early,” he said. “You can’t just stop the parade and go out and get more.”

Representatives of the candidates participating in the races for the U.S. House of Representatives and governor are also expected to participate on Wednesday, and both of the sides in the debate over Ballot Measure 1 will have a presence in the parade. The “vote no” group Stand for Alaska will have a large contingent, and the “vote yes” group Stand for Salmon spent an evening last week making signs for the parade.

• Contact reporter James Brooks at or 523-2258.

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