by Peter Twitchell
Bethel 4th of July celebrations have always been a big event in the past. The preparation, where everyone pitched in, including City Municipality, as they do now, all service organizations, and someone from the hospital which was usually Earl Polk Sr. getting his boxing ring all set up for his boxing students to exhibit their boxing skills, which included all the boys from across the slough like Elia Michael, boys from this side like Nick Francis. It really was an exciting time.
The fire department helped with the kids bicycle races, gunny sack races, wheel barrow races, running races to the hospital and back to the fairgrounds, and the grease pole contest which was popular with all the guys.
The fire department worker or school teacher would pin up a clear plastic bag with a $20.00 up to $50.00 prize. The guys stood on the shoulders of the guys they were going to split the prize money with.
The school Superintendent and teachers were involved, they had egg carry contest. The contestants bit the spoon which was taped and the one to cross the finish line with the egg still on the spoon won.
The villagers would compete against the other villages in a tug of war, which was always fun. The crowd was cheering and full of laughter. One contest I remember which was kind of humorous was the men running across to the other side where they had to change into women’s clothing. It seems like the laughter never stopped!
One o’clock rolled around and it was time to watch the boat races gathering in front of the Cezary’s Auto Repair Shop. All the men, I never saw women boat race, although I understand that some do in the villages, would gather up in the smaller horse power line up. The next race would be the higher horse power division. No one luckily got hurt and there were no serious injuries.
Then Jimmy Pete and Steven Paul would jump out of the airplane and parachute down toward the fairgrounds. Once they threw out a stuffed dummy, which was a scare because the chute didn’t deploy, and maybe there was no chute. It was all in fun, and I wish everyone in the great State of Alaska, have a wonderful Independence Day, 241st to be exact, holiday, and be kind to one another.