By Melinda Munson

Normally on the Fourth of July, cruise ship passengers pour into Skagway. Canadian neighbors make the trek south and the egg toss line stretches down Broadway Street.

This year will be different. With cruises cancelled, the Canadian border closed and COVID-19 social distancing procedures in effect, the Chamber of Commerce had to adapt.

“Life has to continue,” said Rebecca (Reba) Hylton, a member of the Chamber’s board of directors. “How do we adapt to this lifestyle?”

While stressing safety, Hylton and her crew of volunteers are making alterations to Skagway’s staple celebration. The parade will cover more distance so observers can spread out, with a special viewing section for older and high-risk residents who want to stay in their vehicles. The kids’ carnival, hosted by Karla and Duff Ray, will limit the number of participants at one time.

Kids prepare to pull in the tug-of-war during the 2019 Fourth of July festival in downtown Skagway. Photo by Reba Hylton.

Hylton said they’re “still working out the details” for the ducky derby and White Pass’ spike driving event. The parade committee presented their mitigation plans to the borough manager, chief of police and fire chief. Hylton said so far, her committee has the Municipality’s blessing.

“We’re suggesting everyone wear a mask,” Hylton said. Six-foot social distancing should also be practiced.

This year, parents are being asked to chaperone their children marching in the parade. Candy may be thrown by those walking in the procession, but not from vehicles or floats. Observers should bring their own chairs as seating will not be provided.

The theme for the general parade is “Small town celebration: Supporting locals one business at a time.” 

The kids’ parade honors the library’s 100th anniversary with the slogan “F-READ-OM.” Children are encouraged to dress up as literary characters. Julene Brown, Skagway’s recently retired head librarian with over 25 years of service, will grand marshall the parade.

Skagway Brew Co. and The Station will provide outdoor seating with live music and a special menu. A schedule and full list of participating businesses is located on the back page of this issue. Information can also be found on the Facebook Event: Small town celebration: Supporting locals one business at a time.”

The festivities kick off on June 29 with a red, white and blue decorating contest.

“The Fourth of July is a huge celebration here,” Hylton said. “I’d say it’s the best place in the country to celebrate.”

She sees this summer, where Skagway is empty of tourists, as a special opportunity, despite the financial and social challenges.

“This is our year to celebrate,” Hylton said.