The crowd of 2,000 danced, jingled and drummed their way to Juneau’s Centennial Hall Wednesday evening for Celebration 2014.
And that was just the dancers.
It was a Grand Entrance to beat all Grand Entrances, as thousands thronged to see the 50 dance troupes jump start the biennial festival known as Celebration on June 11. The processional was led by Saanya Kwaan, the Cape Fox dancers, and by now the Sealaska’s biennial Celebration is in full tilt.
Sponsored by the Sealaska Heritage Institute, it’s the largest cultural event in Alaska, according to KTOO News radio. Its sole purpose is to bring together multiple generations of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people together to celebrate their culture.
The kickoff event was the June 11 awards ceremony for Sealaska’s Juried Art Show and Competition, at which Tlingit carver and artist Wayne Price of Haines won the top award, Best of Show, for his Dancing Raven Hat, a painted hat of red cedar and otter fur, KTOO reported.
Celebration has been held every two years since 1982, and it draws much more than Native Alaskans. There were people like Patricia McGraw and her husband Gary, who came all the way from Pensacola, Florida just to attend, KTOO reported.
“When I was young the Native traditions were totally disrespected,” said McGraw, who is non-Native, to KTOO. “And you know kids knew. I was told not to play with the Native kids. But kids know what’s right, what’s wrong, and I’ve always felt quite strongly that they needed their traditions and we needed to honor their traditions.”
The finale on Saturday June 14 offers a full day of dancers, a parade and of course the Grand Exit. And for those who are far-flung and could not get up to Alaska as McGraw did, the events are being livestreamed online at the website 369north.org. Much more information about Celebration 2014 is at the Sealaska Heritage Institute.