WEEKEND HANGOUT – Gina Lusher, foreground right, and other Sitka Cirque aerialists rehearse Thursday night for this weekend’s show, Cirque Noir, at the 207 Smith Street studio. The show includes cage dancers, live music and champagne. Kids from first grade through high school will have a separate fundraiser showcase event Saturday afternoon from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tickets for both shows are available online at sitkacirque.com. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Chamber Banquet Back Live, Under Big Top


Sentinel Staff Writer

The big top is being raised at Harrigan Centennial Hall for the Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Gala Saturday night.

Vintage Circus is the theme of the decorations and fare at the Chamber’s main fundraiser of the year.

It’s been two years since the popular dinner and awards program was last held, and Chamber director Rachel Roy said the event is a good kick-off for more in-person meetings and other events.

The gala is an occasion to get dressed up, and many participants choose outfits inspired by the theme for that year. Custom cocktails and a catered dinner with offerings also in keeping with the circus and vintage theme will be part of the evening.

“I love to put this event on every year and one of the best things is the surprise of transforming Harrigan Centennial Hall – and to transport people into wherever and whatever the theme is,” she said.

“We had a Marrakesh Moroccan theme, we had a Venetian theme – so we went to Italy,” Roy said, recalling past years. “And it inspires everything from food to drinks to decor. And I really love to be able to make people feel special and to create memorable events. Someone told me once, ‘If I get married, I’m just going to do that the day after the gala – just change the table settings and have a wedding.’ Because it’s always so beautiful.”

But Roy said the highlight, as always, will be the presentation of awards.

“It’s all about the awards,” Roy said. They are always a surprise to those receiving the awards, she said, although friends and family are often tipped off.

Last year, the Cossack Cap award for public service went to Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council Chairman Lawrence “Woody” Widmark; Business of the Year went to AC Lakeside; and Sitka Swirls was the New Business of Year. Members of the Emergency Operations Center were honored as Heroes of the Year for their work in the community response to the COVID pandemic.

After two years, Roy is happy to be back with an in-person gala, one that will combine the circus theme with the theme for one of the canceled events, The Roaring ‘20s.

Sitka Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rachel Roy, left, and volunteer Marsha Strand assemble table decorations for Saturday’s annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. (Sentinel Photo)

“Everyone is excited to get back to the fabulous food and entertainment,” Roy said. Our Town is catering a “vintage-inspired” menu, and the Sitka Historical Society has loaned out the carnival games. Appetizers are oysters Rockefeller and “upscale fair food,” including reindeer sausage corndogs and popcorn with local sea salt, Roy said. The dinner entree is roasted duck, with a vegetarian alternative also available.

Roy knows some Chamber regulars had their vintage ‘20s outfits ready to go last year when the gala was canceled. But she said the theme works even better now because “We’re seeing business roaring.”

The Sitka Cirque acrobats will perform on a lyra, in line with the circus theme. A custom cocktail menu of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks is also inspired by the themes. 

“It’s a chance to get dressed up and spend an evening recognizing our top businesses and treat yourself after a hard year’s work – I think we’ve earned it,” she said. 

The get-together is also a good opportunity for networking, Roy said, noting the number of business professionals who have come to town since the last banquet was held.

Roy said the Saturday event will include an announcement of the return of the Chamber’s luncheons, held every other Wednesday at Centennial Hall. Most meetings over the past three years were conducted over Zoom.

 The first such meeting will be noon Jan. 25 with City Administrator John Leach presenting the “state of the city” annual speech. The following meeting will be a membership meeting with an annual report and election of board members. The Chamber and its Visit Sitka arm represent some 300 businesses.Tickets to the Saturday gala were still available today at marketing@sitkachamber.com. The menu and other information are available at sitkachamber.com.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m., with the main event at 6:30 p.m. Dress code is black tie optional with vintage and circus attire encouraged.


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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

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 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

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

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






December 2003

The Sawmill Cove Industrial Park board of directors endorsed a final contract tuesday for the city to sell a minimum of 40 million gallons of reservoir water per year to an export company based in New York City. ... under the contract Quest would have the right to purchase up to 1 billion gallons of water per year at 1 cent per gallon



December 1973

 The City and Borough of Sitka conducted a community public opinion poll evaluating municipal services and facilities. ... The overall results gave this priority order: 1. roads and highways; 2. water and sewer; 3. downtown parking; 4. garbage collection and disposal; 5. hospital and medical facilities; 6. planning and zoning; 7. boat harbors.


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