EXPECT DELAYS – Lines of traffic move slowly down Sawmill Creek Road today as a repaving project progresses near the Indian River bridge. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

COVID Can’t Stop Fireworks for Sitka

Sentinel Staff Writer

Many of Sitka’s traditional Fourth of July activities have been canceled, changed or curtailed in line with COVID-19 restrictions, but a group of Sitkans has rallied to make sure at least one continues.

“We want people to know to expect fireworks, at 11:30 p.m. Friday,” said Roger Hames.

Roger and his wife Mary launched a fundraising effort last month to make sure the fireworks display would happen this year. A contribution from the Hames Corporation, which Roger heads, helped get the fund started.

“It’s such a part of what the celebration and community is about,” Roger said. “We hope people will be celebrating – and social distancing.”

A number of other activities are on the schedule, including food events and fundraisers.

The Chamber of Commerce invited individuals and businesses to “Share Your Spark” by decorating with red, white and blue. Prizes will be given for best business, best nonprofit, best house and best condo or apartment. Judging will take place Friday, with winners announced on the Fourth.

“We’ve had lots of participation in each category,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rachel Roy. Some entries are featured on the organization’s Facebook page, she added.

With the cancellation of the parade down Lincoln Street, community activist Jeff Budd organized an Old Car Parade, starting at 1 p.m. on the Fourth. (The schedule is listed below.) 

He said expect to see his 1973 white Checker Marathon in the line up, and Dan Jones’ red 1956 Willys, among others.

Several other activities will go ahead as usual, most with specific restrictions in place for COVID-19 prevention.

Roger Hames, a fan of fireworks displays himself, thought his company could step in when the longtime sponsor made the difficult decision in May to cancel the display. The company, Petro Marine, cited the uncertainty around the pandemic and state mandates, and the need to give the community plenty of advance notice.

In early June, Hames wondered if it would still be possible to put a fireworks display together.

“I thought if we could get permission from the city fathers, it could be one thing that will give joy to the community,” he said. 

The help came quickly, and was greater than he could have expected.

Hames received information, advice and donations from Petro Marine, secured the needed permission and permits from the city, and enlisted the community’s experienced pyrotechnic operator Jake Denherder to coordinate the display.

Hames said he has been overwhelmed by the response from the community, with donations exceeding expectations to help cover the some $19,000 needed. (A list of donors is in a Sea Mart ad in today’s Sentinel.)

Hames admitted he never knew how much work went into a first-class fireworks display like the one Petro Marine has been sponsoring for decades. Mary did a lot of the legwork as well, he said. In the end, there were enough donations to cover the cost of this year’s display and get a head-start on funding next year’s fireworks.

Hames was also pleased that Denherder, who has been organizing the actual fireworks display for more than a decade, was available and happy to help.

Fortunately there was enough lead time to ship the 800 to 900 fireworks down from Big Lake, Alaska, and for Denherder to get volunteers, including some from Petro Marine, lined up to put on the show.

“It was figuring out logistics, who’s doing what,” Denherder said.

He started helping with the Fourth of July fireworks some 11 or 12 years ago, and stepped into the lead job a few years later when it came open.

He said it’s not really possible to plan exactly how the display will look, since identically labeled pyrotechnics can look different in the sky, but he and his crew try to keep a good pace going with a good variety of fireworks.

But he and his crew do put a lot of effort into creating a spectacular finale, when a number goes off in quick succession marking the end of the display.

The Chamber is reminding everyone to observe social distancing throughout the celebration.

“We encourage all groups to follow the CDC’s and State of Alaska’s guidelines to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 in our community,’’ the Chamber said. ‘‘View the latest mandates and alerts for Alaska at https://covid19.alaska.gov/. When planning a mass gathering, this site is a great resource:


Scheduled activities:


–11 a.m.-8 p.m., Filipino food vendors in the back lot of Sizzling Chow Cuisine

–11 a.m.-8 p.m. Food booth at the Elks Lodge, 747-3511.

Friday, July 3

–11 a.m.-8 p.m. Filipino food vendors in the back lot of Sizzling Chow Cuisine, 747-5673

–11 a.m.-8 p.m. Food booth at the Elks Lodge

–7 p.m. Sitka Freedom Fest at Totem Square, planned by a group of Sitkans. The event is “For the people, by the people. A time to recover the sacred honor of Memorial Day and Independence Day as grateful Americans,’’ said Randal Hames, one of the organizers. It will include a military tribute and patriotic sing-along, he said.

–11:30 p.m. Fireworks display over the Sitka Channel by Hames Corp. and other donors. Contact Hames Corp. at 747-3209

Saturday, July 4

–9 a.m. Garage and bake sale, American Legion Hall, by American Legion Auxiliary

–11 a.m.-3 p.m. Fish & chips, Moose Lodge, at the window

–11 a.m. Halibut fish and chips, American Legion Hall

–11 a.m.-8 p.m. Filipino food vendors in the back lot of Sizzling Chow Cuisine

–11 a.m.-8 p.m. Food booth at the Elks Lodge

–Noon Barbecue benefit for Fortress of the Bear, AC Lakeside Grocery parking lot

–1 p.m. Old Car Parade starting from Whale Park on Sawmill Creek Road. Contact Jeff Budd at 738-9417. Parade times are:

–1:15 p.m. turning left on Jeff Davis Street; 1:16 turning right on Lincoln Street; 1:19 turning right on Lake Street; 1:23 turning left on Peterson; 1:24 turning right on Edgecumbe; 1:28 driving down Charteris; 1:38 driving out to Starrigavan; 1:48 return to Sitka Long Term Care at the Old Sitka Hospital; 1:53 drive down Katlian Street; and 1:57 p.m. left on Lincoln Street past the traffic light, to Centennial Hall parking.

–4 p.m. 36th Annual Rotary Club  Duck Race at Granite Creek. Call (818) 207-2993.




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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:


On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff


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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-7-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:20 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 53

Total statewide – 3,536

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (14 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 141.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 




August 2000

High prices for chum salmon, low pink returns, and record numbers of fish in Deep Inlet have turned the Sitka fishing grounds into Route 66 this summer. “Overall it’s been a fantastic season so far,” said Steve Reifenstuhl, operations manager for the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association.

August 1970

His Beatitude, Metropolitan Ireney, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, will head a gathering of Orthodox prelates from North American and abroad in ceremonies canonizing the first American Orthodox saints, Father Herman of Alaska. A group of Sitkans will fly to Kodiak for the event.