The coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of many Fourth of July events, but Juneauites who wanted to gather and celebrate the holiday, despite public health concerns, had an option in the Mendenhall Valley.
Dozens of vehicles, several cyclists and a few people on foot completed Saturday morning a festive and unpermitted circuit that began and finished at the Nugget Mall. Clusters of people — and a few pets — lined the sides of Crest Street to gather handfuls of candy thrown from the passing cars and see the vehicles decorated for the holiday finish the parade.
“It’s a little bit more than I expected,” said parade organizer Ray Rusaw of attendance during a pre-parade interview.
Rusaw said he wasn’t sure exactly how many people participated in the event.
While many participants were visibly members organizations such as the American Legion, Rusaw said they were there as individuals and no veterans organizations officially participated in the event.
He said most of the participants were from the local “car culture,” which he expected. He added it could allow people to socially distance if they so chose.
Some participants and observers attempted to stay six feet apart from people who they do not live with and wore face coverings — as is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state and city — but many did not.
Rusaw, who walked the parade route without a mask, said that a lack of social distancing didn’t bother him. Attendees and participants, Rusaw said, were exercising their rights and making an informed decision.
“The people that came out here today, they knew what they were doing,” Rusaw said.
Earlier in the week, Juneau Police Department advised that blocking roads or impeding traffic could lead to citations. While officers were visibly present to observe the parade, no citations appeared to be issued. A message to JPD sent Saturday morning seeking confirmation that no one was cited was not immediately returned.
Rusaw, who advised parade participants to follow the law to the best of their ability while making their way along the short route, said upon its conclusion that the parade went fairly smoothly.
“Juneau’s a bunch of good people,” Rusaw said, adding that the Fourth of July brings out the best in people.