By , July 3, 2014

This year my sister, Beth’s high school class celebrates its 30th anniversary reunion. Instead of attending her fellow graduates, she’s headed to Wrangell, Alaska, to attend the reunion with people she knew in junior high.

Any and all class reunions in Wrangell take place on Independence Day. Townsfolk say, ‘Muslims go to Mecca, Wrangellites go to Wrangell on the Fourth of July!” A lot of Wrangell expats will show up anyway, it only makes sense to schedule the reunion then. In fact, many classes don’t even schedule, they just get together informally.

Dead last but still fighting! Aly tries a sack race, 1999 (Photo: John Emde)

Dead last but still fighting! Aly tries a sack race, 1999 (Photo: John Emde Sr.)

If you ever want to see a real small town Fourth of July, you need to experience Wrangell’s celebration (see There’s No Place Quite Like Small Town Alaska for the Fourth of July). After the parade, downtown shuts down for field games through the streets. All ages participate in egg tosses, races (foot to kayak) tugs of war and more. In the evening there’s a street dance, followed by a large fireworks display close to midnight.

When Beth decided to go, she invited us, so as you read this, we’re on a ferry to Wrangell for the Fourth. This is my 35th graduation anniversary, so there’s nothing scheduled for my class, but I’ll be reuniting with friends of all ages. Some of them I saw 15 years ago, when we attended my 20th high school reunion. Hopefully, this time around I’ll see some dear friends who didn’t make it that year. I’ll also get to see my sister for the first time since last Thankgiving.

Even better, Aly will be there, too! She and Beth drove from Washington state to Prince Rupert, Canada, where they hopped a ferry north. We’ll meet in Wrangell, then Aly will come home with us for the summer.

She was just about to turn 6 years old when we last visited Wrangell. She threw herself into the games with all she had. I fondly remember when she tried a sack race for the first time. She came in dead last in her age group, laughing so hard she nearly collapsed, but she did not give up until she’d crossed that finish line!

Aly tails on in a tug-of-war, 1999 (Photo: John Emde, Sr.)

Aly tails on in a tug-of-war, 1999 (Photo: John Emde, Sr.)

Sadly, one old friend we won’t see this trip will be John Emde, Sr., to whom we’re so grateful for these and other photos of Aly from 15 years ago. John has passed away; we’ll be staying with his wife, Janice while in Wrangell.

The blogs on “autopilot” till we get back. Hopefully, we’ll have some noteworthy stories to tell after that. Happy Fourth of July!

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